Cut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just when you think things are solidly moving in the right direction, you get hit with something so big it drags you back to the feelings post Dday.  Only this time, it’s a different situation.  But for some reason, that is how it felt to me.

Let me explain.

Last summer, right after school let out, we went away for a short vacation.  The hotel had lots of pools and water areas.  And on our very first day there, I distinctly remember looking over at my husband and seeing his wedding ring missing.  My heart sank.  And I had this horrendous empty feeling inside.  But I rationalized that perhaps he didn’t want to wear it at the pool.  Or maybe he left it at home by mistake.  Either way, I decided that I had to put on a happy face because we had our kids with us.  Plus, school just let out.  The trip was meant to bind our family together, not tear us apart.  So I pushed it out of my mind and really focused on my kids, and basically tried to make the trip all about them.

For the most part, the trip was a success.  We drank by the pool, fucked in the ginormous bathroom complete with mirrors galore once the kiddos crashed.  I tried my best for the sake of everyone, but I do recall us fighting at one point.  We were in the car and I just turned back to the resort and got out.  Told him to take the kids to dinner.  I didn’t want to eat with him and certainly couldn’t stand sitting across from him at dinner.  I honestly don’t remember exactly what set me off.  But something did, that much I remember.  Maybe subconsciously it was because of his missing wedding ring, I honestly don’t know.  But we never talked about it.

All of this laid dormant till about a month ago.  It was as if my brain froze those memories and squirreled them away, hidden even from me.  How could that be?  I don’t know.  But that’s what happened.

Perhaps I had too many distractions: thinking of CEO, trying to be a better mother to my children/more engaged, volunteering regularly at the kids schools again, the house and the endless work on it…running…injuries…doctor appointments.  Take your pick.  Something is always distracting me.

Now fast forward to a month ago.  It’s our wedding anniversary.  I planned a very special evening out, to a very iconic hotel in Beverly Hills.  The dinner venue was carefully selected, another swanky kind of place.  Basically, I was trying to create a romantic evening for us.

Only it didn’t quite turn out that way…

As I stared at my menu, I innocently glanced up, only to see no wedding ring on my husbands finger-again.  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  I finally called him out for it.  And we fought.  And we argued.  When our waiter finally brought our check, he gave me a pitying look as if to say, “You are such a beautiful woman.  You could do better than this guy.”  All I could do was roll my eyes in defeat.  Or was it disgust?

He then dropped a bomb on me.  “I haven’t worn it in over a year now.  I decided to take it off shortly after you confessed.”

“Oh really?  And when were you planning on discussing this with me?  I thought we were trying to build a new marriage?  I thought our agreement was 100% complete honesty?  So all this time, when I am pouring out my heart to you regarding CEO and every damn minuscule feeling, emotion, longing I have honestly felt, running into him/his wife–EVERYTHING that happens, I run to you.  To try to rebuild us, our connection, our “new marriage”.  And yet, you decided to just up and remove it?  No discussion?  Not so much as one word?”

“Yeah well you told me way back then that you weren’t sure if you wanted to be married to me anymore…”

“Yes, I did.  I told you a lot of things.  Because I was being vulnerable, honest and completely forthright in how I felt towards you, us, the life we had built thus far.  We have been a work in progress for a long time.  But every morning since saying that, I was still there.  Still trying.  Still trying to make this marriage work, right?”

As he sat there dressed in his nice Hugo Boss suit, I felt as if I was going to vomit.  I couldn’t look at his face any longer.  The tension was palatable, while the silence between us grew.   Then I reached for my purse and said, “You have to be kidding me.  A year?  You mean we went on that fantastic vacation to that fantastic island and you weren’t wearing it?  And I didn’t even notice that?  Talk about the most idyllic memories of rebuilding our marriage thus far.  And it never occurred to you to put your wedding ring back on–before we left?  Really?  I thought things were pretty awesome between us…but I guess not.  Maybe it was all just in my mind.”

He mumbled and fumbled, over his words, none of which I caught.  I grabbed my purse and opened my phone and started scrolling through all my photos.  Sure enough, each and every photo where I could see his hands, he was ringless.

Fuck. My head was spinning.  And honestly, I think the wine was going to my head at this point. A migraine was forming and I was fuming on the inside.  Anger was boiling.  I felt as if I was going to erupt, like that volcano outside The Mirage.

Friends, I’ve looked at these photos maybe a hundred times.  Dissected each and every one.  I’ve laughed and smiled equally that many times while looking at all these pictures. Showing them to friends or family.  Sharing them on Facebook. But each and every time, I was so intently focused on our kids, his smile, our beautiful family or the artistic quality of the shots.  Never once staring at the megapixels of his ring finger.

My bad.

I thought we were trying to make an amazing marriage.  I guess it was only me really trying.

Our anniversary ended with me saying, “You have no clue, just how much damage you have caused to our marriage.”

That was weeks ago.

We haven’t had sex.

Not that I want him touching me.

Quite frankly, at this point in my life, if I die without ever having sex again,  I’ll be fine with that arrangement.

…and so it goes, back to having a beta roommate, passive-aggressive kind of husband.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Bitter Pills

So you are probably wondering, “Did he fuck her?”  The answer is no.  No he didn’t.

Did he cross the line?  Yes, yes he did.

Did he cheat on me?  Yes, yes he did.

Did he objectify her, use her for his own selfish gratification?  Yes, yes he did.

Was it wrong?  Yep.  Sure was.

Peeling back the layers of his life helped me see beyond the betrayal.  It gave me insight into the why which I was seeking so fervently.   I know everyone is different.  Some spouses want to know the nitty gritty, while others don’t want any details.  But I needed to know everything.  And I mean everything.

I needed to uncover what motivated him to cheat.  I needed to understand who this person was before my eyes now.  Because one thing I know for sure now, is that once you confess, it shakes the marriage foundation completely off it’s footings.  Everything you thought you knew seems to be tossed out the window.  And I needed to uncover the why or else our marriage was doomed to fail.

In the beginning, I use to wonder why he didn’t have sex with her.  Or if that too was a lie.  I would reconcile events, statements and thoughts to bring order to our lives after the chaos of his confession.  My mind would wander to those never ending thoughts, which by the way are completely useless.  But we all do it, to some degree or another.  At least I did.

The answer had less to do with his love and respect for our marriage and more to do with fear.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Good ol’ fear.  Fear as in contracting HIV/AIDS.  They covered this topic on our safari so thankfully, it was embedded in both our minds.  Just to give you an idea of how wide spread it is in Congo, the United States has a .6% prevalence rate (adults 15-49) whereas Congo is 4.5% (thanks Wikipedia).  So let’s just say Congo is not the country to roll the dice and have unprotected sex.  Period.

For a while, I had a hard time reconciling this first incidence of cheating.  Despite understanding his issues with wanting to be accepted, him feeling out of place in a foreign country, for not speaking French and wanting to be accepted by the group, for having poor boundaries and letting copious amounts of alcohol play a contributing part in his decision making, I came to realize that I played a role in this situation as well.

What you say?  Yes, time to swallow that bitter pill people.  Everyone plays a part, like it or lump it, that is the truth.  For me, it meant discovering that I never really guarded our marriage.  To be honest, I never realized I had to.  I trusted him explicitly and quite honestly, never fathomed just how fallible my husband truly was.  I had him up on a pedestal and never entertained the thought that he could come off of it.

Very early in our marriage, I occasionally had single girlfriends whisper, “Doesn’t it bother you that she is talking to your husband?”  And I would say, “Of course not.  I know he is coming home with me.”  I chalked it up to those friends still being single and not understanding the strength of our marriage bond.  I would later share this girl talk with my husband and we would both laugh at the thought.  Cheating?  How preposterous!  Never in a million years.  We were so in love.  Like crazy in love.

If you were to poll our friends, we would be the last couple anyone would think would succumb to adultery….which is exactly why it hit us first .

 

The Business Trip

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.

The Marriage Counselor

“My therapist won’t see us as a couple.  She said she is too involved with me already and it wouldn’t be fair to you.  She wouldn’t be impartial.  So she gave me some referrals but none of the marriage counselors are on our insurance plan.”  That is how the following morning started, in between dressing Vivian and prepping snacks in advance for V’s entire preschool.  Getting dressed he said, “Ok let me see what I can dig up today once I get to work.”

As anyone who lives in Los Angeles understands, asking for therapist referrals on a mommy blog was akin to standing on the 405 freeway, at rush hour, with a blow horn.  Pretty much every mother in the entire LA basin was throwing out recommendations.  So once I kept hearing the same three or four therapists, I knew I had my short list.  That explains how I was able to get into therapy so quickly.

Now Hubby offering to find a marriage counselor was 1) a chance for me to offload some of the work in sorting through our marriage problems but 2) fraught with the very real fear he would likely pull out the yellow pages (like who uses those things anymore?).

We are polar opposites in that way.  So I am telling you this upfront.  To be fair, I drive him nuts with my penchant for thoroughness.  I have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and will gladly dive knee-deep into any subject till I become an expert on it, only to abandon it and take up the next topic.  Just how I am.  However, my husband is the exact opposite (can you say yin to my yang–is that even correct?   Whatever.  You get what I am trying to explain).

My husbands lackadaisical attitude towards life in general is embedded in his culture.  I can’t divulge more than that without fear of exposing who he is.  But let’s just say, he comes from an entire country that relishes in being laid back.  And no, he is not from Jamaica.

It’s safe to say that when he found a marriage counselor, I approached our first session with extreme caution.  We both pulled into the parking lot at the same time and I distinctly remember things were really icy between us.  Despite wanting to extend forgiveness, I was combating waves of anger still or maybe it was just hormones.  Who knows.

We entered the therapists office and sat down.  He was fumbling about and clearly unorganized.  And he was slow like molasses in everything he did.  It was beyond annoying because he would ask a question, and then close his eyes for several minutes while he pondered another.  I couldn’t help but think, “This twat is milking our therapy session!”  Despite having several diplomas all over his walls, he lacked any real social skills needed to be a therapist.  That’s academia for you.

“So what are you hoping to achieve?” he implored.

“Why….I want to know why he chose to do this.  Without understanding the why, I can’t move forward.” That is what I said to him.

Incredibly, he replied like Yoda from the movie Star Wars, “You…..may never…get that answered.  The why…does not matter.”

My my mind was racing at full speed and I could feel my heart pounding.  I wish I could say it was because I was pregnant.  Or that someone kidnapped my manners.  But when faced with idiots who lack common sense, I feel compelled (no rather it’s my duty to all of mankind) to inform them of their ridiculous notions.

“Listen here Yoda.  I went to Starbucks this morning.  I ordered a plain bagel and iced latte (it’s ok people the new guidelines say pregnant women can have a cup now and again).  I know why I ordered that.  Because I wanted it.  I craved having carbs and needed some caffeine.  Don’t tell me for a second that my husband doesn’t know why he decided to fuck someone else.  We all make choices.  And we all know why we do that.  We’ve hired you to get to the bottom of the “why”.  If you’re not on the same page, then I am out of here.”

We ended up storming out of his office and fighting in the parking lot.  Me leaving in one car, my husband in another.  And that was the extent of our marriage counseling.  To date.

Needless to say, things were back to being miserable between us.

 

The Sex Addict

The next day, I did what countless people do every day.  I turned to Google for answers.  I know, I know, I shouldn’t have.  Just like you shouldn’t self diagnosis any ailments using MedMD.  However, we all do this, right?  At least in dire straights.  Screw waiting for a therapist to get to the bottom of this.  I wanted answers.  And quick.

I needed to understand why this happened.  You know, the actual underlying reason why this occurred.  Why my husband wanted to cheat on me.  Why he felt compelled to go outside our marriage, at a time when our lives were pretty damn idyllic (no mortgage, no kids, no debt, no stress).

And for the record, his first infidelity occurred right after we had ended a trip around the world–for 9 solid months I might add.  In my mind, he had no reason to be unfulfilled, to seek out an affair.  Our lives back then were one giant adventure, a bucket list trip that began on a safari in Africa and ended on an elephant in Thailand.  For real.  It made no sense to me whatsoever.

I wanted to figure this out.  Because in all honesty, I needed to know what I should be guarding my marriage against.  If not, we were doomed and likely would happen again.

That evening I told my husband, “I read this article on-line and think you might be a sex addict.” I was dead serious when I suggested this as he also confessed to a porn addiction.

All the other situations just didn’t seem to fit when reading up on various types of affairs.  So we sat down together and emailed a support group for men struggling with sex addictions.  He went to a meeting that night, while I stayed home with Vivian and my ever-expanding belly.

When he came home, I was expecting him to say, “That’s it.  That’s what I suffer from.  Now this is how we go about fixing this.”  However, it’s never that simple.

As he opened the front door, he had a look of astonishment spread all over his face.    The stories he heard that evening shocked him.  He proceeded to tell me that he felt so unbelievably sad for all the men in the room.  Hearing their stories, hearing their struggles assured him 100% that he wasn’t a sex addict at all.  Far from it.

Looking back, I think it was a knee jerk reaction at the time.  Me grasping for straws, trying to figure this whole situation out.

We laugh about it now.  Him a sex addict?  Ha!  Not even close.  Over time, I can see he was trying to fix things in our marriage.  And he was willing to face whatever “this” was because he didn’t want to divorce.   Even going so far as looking into whether or not he was a sex addict.

That counts for something, right?

My Brave Heart

After any major life changing event, there comes a point where you either accept things or it slowly begins to define you.  We all know that person, the one that holds grudges against their ex-spouse.  The ones that spew hatred for anything that triggers them.  The ones that have literally lost years of their lives being enslaved to the travesty which they endured decades ago.  I didn’t want to become one of those people.  That was for sure.

It took listening to a news program for the penny to drop.  For me to see the bigger picture and wipe the mess off my rose colored glasses that was clouding my view.  Essentially after much soul searching, I figured out real quick that my husbands infidelity had less to do with me and everything to do with breaking up our family.  And I wasn’t about to let that happen.  My kids, quite frankly, mean everything to me.

So on that spring morning as I drove back from yet another doctors appointment, I returned home a changed wife.  I recounted the news story to my husband and told him, “I don’t know how I am going to forgive you.  If it will come in stages or one lump sum.  But today, I chose to forgive you.  And each day I wake up, I will say those words until they become my reality.”

He cried.  I cried.  Then we had sex.

If I could go back in time, I would stop myself.  Looking back years later, I realize that I fast tracked my forgiveness for the sake of our family.  I placed all the pain and hurt into some imaginary box because let’s be honest, I had a life growing inside of me.  I didn’t have time to wallow in this mess.  Like Mel Gibson in the movie Braveheart shouting, “Onward!”, I too had to keep pressing forward at living.

So I did.

Therapy

As I sat on the couch filling out a questionnaire, I found myself looking around at the dark wood panelling left over from the 70’s and thinking, “I can’t believe I am actually sitting in this office.”  It was quiet, yet I could hear a faint buzz from the outdated fluorescent light bulbs above me.  As my pen hit the paper, I heard a voice and what sounded like tissues being pulled out of a box.  Then the door swung open and a pair of legs went scurrying by.  This was another wounded soul.  My compadre.  But out of mutual respect, I kept my eyes cast downward and proceeded onto page two.

“Would you like to come back now?” she asked in a cheerful voice.  So I picked up my belongings and sat down on the Rachel Ashwell slip covered chair.  Sitting across from her, I studied her face noting it was full of wrinkles from years of laughter.  I began telling her the story, from A to Z which was sprinkled with tears at the most painful of parts.  She had a reassuring nod and the hour whizzed by.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from my first therapy session, but maybe if I scheduled another, things would become more clear.  We agreed that twice weekly sessions were needed right now.  A hundred dollars later, I walked out the door unsure if therapy was even for me.

That time in my life was what I refer to as my “crisis” mode.  I was able to hold it together for my kids, but any moments alone were spent crying.  Often times, I found myself pulling into parking spaces only to have no recollection of how I got there. Mentally, I was having conversations in my head every time I got behind the wheel.  Or I would replay moments in our marriage and then piece together business trips of when he cheated on me.  Music either lifted my spirits or caused me to burst into tears. And often times, I cried at the most inopportune times.  In line at the grocery store–check.  Driving Vivian to preschool–check.  And my most memorable–the time I burst into tears before having an ultrasound.

Life has a way of bringing people into your world that can offer advice or healing words.  Marti was mine.  She was the ultrasound technician working the morning of my appointment.  You know, the appointment where you get to see your baby for the first time on a screen.  The one where it’s usually filled with tears of joy and awe for the little child inside of you.

Only mine didn’t play out quite like that.

For reasons which I won’t go into here, I found myself telling her all about my husbands betrayal.  She listened and cried, telling me the story of her fathers affair and how it affected her mother and her childhood.  As she moved the wand over my belly, I felt horrible for crying.  Here I had this little child inside of me, and he/she didn’t deserve to be washed in this sea of pain.  This poor little soul was literally being created inside of me while I wadded through the worst, most excruciating pain of my life.  And I felt guilty for that.  Still do actually.  Even to this day.

But Marti, a complete stranger up until that morning, just held my hand and let me cry.  She was so deeply affected by what I had shared that she contacted me a week later, sending me a handmade card.  I am pretty sure she broke hospital protocol, but in times like these, rules are meant to be broken.  I keep it in my nightstand, along with the confession letters, as a trophy of what I have been through.

“It has been several days since your visit and truthfully, I have yet been able to shake the image of this kind and beautiful patient before me, so visibly upset, sharing her story of ultimate betrayal.  

After a great deal of thought, I must share with you my sincere appreciation for your strength as you consider resolution rather than abruptly, and understandably so, declaring an end to the relationship.  You exemplify courage and strength, commitment and compassion, qualities we all hope to recognize in ourselves.

I hope the burdens on your heart are soon lifted and you can acknowledge your courageous soul and the fine example you are to your beautiful children.”

Words have meanings.  They aren’t just letters on a page.  She got that.  And got me.  My pain.

Everything.