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Empathy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My good friend Madeline over at https://madelineharper09.com  blogged about the ending of her affair. For those of you who follow my blog, I haven’t even begun to write much about mine but suffice to say, our stories have overlapped since the beginning. She has since moved on but it was difficult for me to read along, as I’ve been there. I empathized with her pain, as well as knew first hand the pain of being a betrayed spouse. I also understood her affair partners reluctance to engage in the relationship any further. Juggling two relationships takes more work than anyone realizes (take my word). It taxes the mental file boxes so to speak.

Grief. Confusion. Pain. Sorrow. Love. Fear.

So many emotions pulse through your veins when facing the end of an affair. I haven’t divulged about my affair, but I wanted to share an actual email which I sent to CEO at the end. It mirrors so much of Madeline’s pain. Our lovers may be different, but I get where Madeline was at. I understand how it feels breathing through a vice-grip day in and day out, all while trying to function for your children. As humans we strive for knowledge, to make sense of our world and the relationships within and around it. At least we should.

Esther Perel once said, “Depending on the circumstances, anyone is capable of anything. This is a crucial piece of knowledge to hold, if there is true intention, to engage empathically with our fellow human beings. It is easy to cast off those that perpetrate or endure horrific things, as being unlike us or different in some way. And my worry is if we operate from that standpoint, we will always be operating from a place of disconnection and isolation. Empathy entails putting yourself in the shoes of another. It is important that we all challenge ourselves to cultivate this ability, because given the right circumstances or right conditions, we are all capable of anything.

The importance of struggle and pain is crucial to the development of character. The process of recovery is transformational. There is a great cost to the character of human beings if things are achieved too easily.”

As I followed Madeline’s journey, I couldn’t help but sincerely wish that her pain transformed her, just as the pain I caused transformed me. You should realize, I am in a different place than when I wrote this letter. But make no mistake, I sat in the crosshairs of gut-wrenching pain and my consequences for a long, long time. I struggled immensely, yet grew out of those ashes into a better person–a better wife–a better friend and better mother to those around me.

***

I came to the beach and ran all the way to the end. I wanted to feel close to you. To see your face amongst the crowds. Maybe even bump into you going for a run (we never did race!!)

My mind pondered so many things, thinking how just 1 week ago you said “I want you.” And how on a dime, that suddenly changed. I still don’t get it.

I ask myself constantly “Did he ever truly care for me?” You said you weren’t the man I thought you were. What does that mean???

I think you did care for me but I am so confused. I reached for my tablet this morning, wanting to turn it on to see if you had written. But I had to stop myself as this habit is so ingrained in me, to include you in my day to day life.

Last night, I took Vivianne to the outdoor concert. I left my phone at home by accident. Normally, I would have sent you a message talking about date night or our plans for the weekend. And in that moment, I realised just how much your presence truly was in my life.

We may have started off as adventure seeking lovers but you became one of my closest friends over the past six months. And I adored that CEO.  Simply put, losing you and your friendship hurts me the most. I have felt your support and laughter through so many months now, seeking advice, sharing my thoughts, concerns, fantasies and more.

I grew….as a person…..by knowing you CEO. That is one compliment which I’ve never said to anyone. Read that sentence again, slower now. Because very few people have ever come into my life and impacted me in so many ways. You are one of them–having made such an impression on my heart.

I look for the number 1 to appear in my inbox all the time. Seeing a message from “CEO” pop up gave me companionship during the chaos and monotony of my days. I noticed your name says ceo (lowercase) now in my inbox. And I wonder what you changed in your settings. I wonder if this is another step forward to disconnecting what had been our connected lives. It makes me well up in tears and I fan my face trying to breathe through the pain.

I hear footsteps behind me as I sit here watching the waves. And I wish they were yours so that I could tell you just how much I will miss you in my life. Waves of grief wash over me as if I have lost an arm or something. It hurts that much.

As I ran here today, I saw a vision of me working late at night putting together a business plan. The next picture was me at a table negotiating with a bunch of executives. Then finally another picture of me reading a news article talking about my company. I was giving an interview and they were asking “How did a mom get involved in the industry–how did you do it?” And I answered, “I met someone who inspired me to dream again. A CEO who showed me how to juggle a house of cards….I dedicate this to him.”

With that picture in my mind, I burst into tears thinking that in time, you and I will be referred to in the past tense. I never want to lose your friendship and tried to ask you how our interactions would be going forward. Likely this may happen over time. But right now, I can’t let go of someone whose friendship meant the most to me of all.

I care about you…always will. And CEO–you may not feel that you are a great person. But I felt it with you. And I know you are. I still believe in you. Everything with you was magical and that is how I will remember us.

***

I remember being in so much pain when I wrote those words. Thinking of not hearing from CEO every day ripped my heart out of my chest. Our lives had become so intertwined, both of us were a source of encouragement to the other. Whether he was having a bad day because an investor pulled out, or if I was struggling with the work I was handling–we always reached out. Losing his friendship was the death kneel, but I knew No Contact would be for life. It killed me to think I would never see his smile again. Never hear his laugh. Never share our fantasy world again.

But…over a year later, I can say that the pain diminished enough to function.  It waxed and waned over those first few months but the overall trajectory was there.  Two years after Dday, you are solidly looking forward and living your life, without the constant feeling of missing their presence.  It may not feel that way in the beginning (the first three months of No Contact are brutal) but you do get through it.   Make no mistakes, you carry the memories of them wherever you go, but they’ve been relegated to a filing cabinet that rarely gets unlocked.  The mental pictures you had swirling around in your head for so long, become fuzzy.  You don’t see their face with clarity and definition any longer.  It’s like they become a photo or snippet of a movie, when memories pop up.  And you are seeing it from afar.

I believe in order to move forward in your life, at some point you stop looking back so much.  You just do-instinctually.  You begin to live more in the present and little by little, you dust yourself off and rebuild your life.  One day at a time.

In the beginning, it’s an accomplishment to not burst into tears every time you drive or hear a song on the radio.  Or maybe just being present long enough to say, “I’m good, thanks” when a grocery clerk asks how you are.  A few moments suddenly becomes a few hours, and then it grows to a whole morning that you didn’t think about “them”.  As time moves forward, eventually days fly by.  And one day, maybe a whole year later, you get an entire week or two as a reprieve for your hard work.  That’s pretty much the first year after Dday in a nutshell, my friends.

Truthfully though, you won’t ever forget your affair partner. The good memories or bad ones–they are in that memory bank for life I’m afraid.  But you do heal.  You do.  In time.

I’m proof of it Madeline.

 

 

 

 

 

Paradise

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Well we finally arrived after two flights and a long layover in between.  The kids took it in stride and even walked themselves through immigration.  I feared they would be asleep and we would be carrying them ourselves, since that is when they are normally sleeping.  But it worked out perfectly.

As we came out of the airport, someone was there to greet us with the car we had rented.  No waiting in lines- wow, I could get use to this.  As my husband placed our suitcases into the back of the car, he jammed his suitcase against him.  His right hand caught a piece of metal which was at one time, part of a side carry handle.  I looked at his face, then saw the blood, and he said, “I think I cut my finger down to the bone.”

The woman took him to a nurse who works in the airport.  We sat next to our rental car saying prayers for Daddy to be ok.  And for this to please, not inhibit the fun he has looked so forward to.  My heart sunk knowing all the water activities we had dreamed of doing while here.  Fifteen long minutes passed when Daddy suddenly appeared saying, “It’s not to the bone-just a deep cut.”  Phew…a huge sigh of relief came flooding out.

We drove about an hour through villages and such, till we finally reached a stone sign.  As we drove down a twisting road (think Lombard Street in San Francisco meets the jungle), we suddenly broke out in the giddiest of grins.

You park your vehicle and then the resort ferries you further down the ravine in little tuk-tuks reminiscent of the ones in Thailand, only much nicer.  As the driver turned the last corner, there stood our own private butler- local drinks in hand literally welcoming us to paradise.

He brought us into our room- and it was stunning.  Views of these majestic mountains coupled with white plantation shutters…four poster bed covered in a white mosquito net.

I’m a visual person so this place is a feast for your eyes and for anyone who loves architecture.  I still can’t believe we are here…in such paradise enjoying our marriage and family after so much destruction.  I feel grateful beyond words that my husband didn’t give up on us, that we have finally rebuilt a solid marriage where honesty reigns (despite how difficult that has been) and that we haven’t allowed our past to destroy our family.

I never thought being 2 years past Dday could feel so great…but it does.  We are making new memories and CEO feels so far behind us now.  This is proof that all those articles you read after Dday are true: some couples rebuild their marriages into stronger, more resilient ones.  I am very grateful to say, we are one of them ❤️🌴☀️

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you are facing the collapse of your marriage, it’s a pretty surreal moment. For me, it felt like I was standing on the side of a cliff. And here was my husband failing miserably at a variety of mundane tasks- but I couldn’t save him anymore. I reached a point where I had nothing left to give. It was like I was watching a comedy of errors with regards to his behavior. But I stood firmly planted on solid ground, unable and unwilling to give him any further rope.

After I published my last post, he read it and was ashamed of his behavior. We talked that night and then the following day, things seemed eerily quiet during afternoon. We banned the children from our room and calmly talked about our relationship– from beginning to end, rehashing every major pivotal moment in between. It ended with me saying, “I deserve to have a husband that I can rely upon. I need and want a partner who will lead this family and our marriage. I can’t fill every role, while you sit idly by acting like an irresponsible twelve year old. Your behavior is appalling. I don’t respect you when you behave so irresponsibly. And I’m not attracted to you whatsoever when you behave like this. I no longer wish to have sex with you. I don’t want to share a bed with you. I’m done.”

And that was that.

He slept on the hardwood floors of our living room for three nights, until I finally said that was insane. At the very least, take the bed in our daughters room. I will move her into our bed, after she falls asleep each night. So that’s what I did. She’s a lot heavier these days, so this wasn’t the easiest of tasks. Every morning, I awoke to her angelic face. I had forgotten just how lovely she is sleeping next to me. It made me think back upon all those naps we took together when she was an infant/toddler. And how quickly the time was passing by us. Quite honestly, I enjoyed the renewed bond I felt those evenings and her presence became the highlight of my day. She would awaken each morning, and we would get just enough time to cuddle and have girl talks before Zane crawled into bed too. It was nice and sweet, despite the undercurrent which brought her into my bed.

The following day, I had tons of work to do, so I left for the day. But when I came home, my husband was dressed in his Hugo Boss suit, as if he had a conference to attend. Only, he didn’t. I must have looked at him bizarrely because he offered up right away, “Everything I have done before wasn’t working. So today, I am doing everything different.” Normally, he would be working in casual clothes but recently he had stayed in his pajamas, that’s how lazy he had become. So finding him dressed to the nines, and sitting working on his laptop, taking conference calls–well it was just funny to see. As I began washing the piles of dishes he created that day, I couldn’t help but smirk. A wave of pessimism washed over me.  If putting on a Hugo Boss suit makes you feel better about your crumbling marriage (and if that somehow is going to change directions for you), knock yourself out there buddy.

But I didn’t say that. I’m not that cruel…but the cynic in me certainly thought it. Call it years of hearing words but never seeing actions. It seemed as if he was grabbing at straws.

We went to bed that night, barely saying a word unless it was regarding the children. There was an obvious tension between us with minimal eye contact exchanged. The following night, he slept in the other room and truthfully, I was grateful for the distance. I needed space away from him. His presence honestly repulsed me.

On my daily run, I kept seeing For Rent signs everywhere. Considering we live at a high demand beach, you don’t see many of them. It felt like a sign: that I was meant to move out. As I ran, I would dream of a little beach cottage. Just me and the kids. Even if it meant living in a tiny one bedroom, I would make it work to stay where we live. To keep the kids lives the same. Schools etc. But then the realist popped back into my head and screamed, “There is no way you could handle living in a tiny apartment, even if it was at the beach. Having neighbors resting upon neighbors- so close like cockroaches. You know that would drive you nuts. You need space. Solitude. And peace and quiet. Not the sound of bottles being smashed at 2 am every weekend by inconsiderate beach dwellers.” My fantasy quickly evaporated into reality once I reached the last mile of my run.

That evening I went to bed, much the same as I had before: mentally exhausted and forlorn.

The following day, my husband seemed driven. Exuberant in his conference calls. He had a pep to his step and he was acting like a man on a mission. It was borderline annoying and somewhat delusional as I thought,” Doesn’t he realize our marriage is kaput?” As I made fresh grapefruit juice, he stood in the kitchen and asked, “Can I use your car this afternoon?” Before I had a chance to respond he added, “I made an appointment with a therapist. I have an appointment during my lunch hour. She’s covered by our insurance and highly rated online.” I’m not going to say I was impressed because after years of becoming so disillusioned, it’s going to take a helluva lot more than one appointment to reverse this marriage. But I felt hopeful in that moment. And thats a huge thing friends. Because this has never happened before.

As I walked through the kitchen, I noticed it was cleaned. Dishes done. Counters wiped. Dog fed. Sticky notes were put on cabinets with reminders to buy grocery items that he used the last of. And the trash cans were taken to the curb. All of them.

I could see he was truly trying. He’s always “tried” in the past too, but only for a few weeks and then it was back to the lazy habits. I recognize his efforts are certainly better than nothing. But truthfully, I wasn’t holding my breathe. Real effective change is a long term result which won’t be seen for a long time. I am however, quietly optimistic.

And hopeful for a redeemed marriage.

 

 

 

The End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When do you call it quits?  At what point do you finally acknowledge- too much damage is here and we can never repair the tsunami that blew through our marriage.  When?  What’s the formula for making that determination?

I read an article this week that said 57% of marriages stated they were thriving five years after discovering an affair.  We aren’t even close to being included in that group.  For some reason, finding this out demoralized me.  It’s been five years since my husband confessed and I feel our marriage is in crisis more than ever.

Those that know me off blog understand just how dire things are.  But I will peel back the curtain slightly and share just one example of what I battle.  I’ve had plenty of discussions with my husband lately- hours worth in fact.  An incident occured weeks ago, whereby he admitted he lost his drivers license and had no way to rent a car.  You see, his irresponsible behavior caught up with him when he failed to take care of his vehicle resulting in blowing up the engine.  Yep, that’s what happens when you don’t check your oil people.  I could have killed him.

So here he was- without a car- and unable to even rent one.  When it dawned on me…he lost his drivers license when he went CHRISTMAS shopping over three months ago.  Christmas people!!!  Now I don’t know about you guys, but my brain would have been screaming at me to take care of my missing drivers license.  Like within 2 days of realizing I lost it.  Every time I drove, I would have been stressed out knowing I was driving without one.  But that’s just me.  Clearly, my husband and I are polar opposites in that way.  Me being the responsible one–him shirking away from all responsibility.  Yep, he stuck his head in the sand (again).

I asked him point blank, “Are you having an affair?  Your behavior reeks of someone who has checked out of their marriage.  I know the signs and you are simply not “with it”.  He assured me he wasn’t, emphatically denying it.

So I went about asking a barrage of questions, “Why have you not made an appointment with the DMV?”  And he said, “Well I looked online but they didn’t have one for months.”

“Ok but did you try looking at different locations?”

” uhhhh…no”

With a few swipes on my phone, I found several locations with availability that week.  But he needed a car ASAP, so he really needed a replacement drivers license fast.  He logged onto his computer while I yelled across from the kitchen, “March 15th–I found one at XYZ city.  You’ll have to drive 45 minutes but they could see you in 2 days.”

More groans…when finally he found an appointment for the next day, although he would have to drive an hour away (not a big deal–an inconvenience but doable).  Phew, crisis averted.  He is scrambling to resolve.  I’m obviously frustrated by his laziness but I’m seriously sitting on the sidelines trying to allow the natural consequences of his behavior to wreck havoc on his life.  Nothing motivates people more than the feeling of shit of the world mounting upon you.

The next day he left for work.  I looked at the time later that afternoon and thought, “Oh he is probably leaving the office now for his DMV appointment.”  When all of a sudden, wouldn’t you know it-he calls me in a panic.  “Can you please gather up all these documents?  I need them for my appointment, to get my drivers license.  And can you drive them to the freeway and meet me?  I won’t be able to make my appointment otherwise, as I am short on time!”

I could have killed him.

“ummm… You want me to drop what I am doing to come and bring you your paperwork?  Don’t you think you should have read the DMV requirements for getting a replacement license last night?  And retrieved those prior to leaving the house this morning?  You want me to save you–to bail you out? I really think the best option is to let natural consequences fall upon you for not being prepared.  For not having any foresight…”

Wish I could say I stuck to my gut response, but I didn’t.  Time was of the essence.  Natural consequences did not fall upon him.  I bailed him out, driving to where he needed me and giving him the papers.

In that moment, I realized I am just an enabler to him.

I am disgusted by his behavior.  It’s as if I am married to an irresponsible 12 year old.  When I handed him the papers, we didn’t even say a word to eachother.  A few minutes later, I sent him the following text:

“I’m honestly done being married to you. I am. I would rather be a single mother and at least have a shot at happiness than keep pushing mud up a mountain. You aren’t happy. I’m not happy. It’s obvious you will never be what I need in a relationship and it’s about time both of us face that fact and pull the plug.

If you want to be lazy that’s fine. But don’t drag me into the lazy husband pool anymore. I’ve allowed this for far too long. I’ve become an enabler to your shitty behaviors and you’ve lost me. I have always said the affairs won’t be the reason why we divorce. It will be THIS dynamic which will break us.

It has.

We are done.”

His reply?  None…crickets.

We have since cooled down.  And we’ve had more talks.  Still living in functional harmony like we always do.  Still socializing with our neighbors and doing things with the kids.  Putting our best faces on.  But the issue remains.

Today (on Easter nonetheless) we had a monumental 6 hour discussion spanning the entire length of our marriage–what’s gone wrong, at what point/what was going on in our lives during certain parts.  His perceptions.  My perceptions.  His hurts vs my hurts.  We’ve gone through it all.  I think the end is near for us.

So something popped into my mind this week that never has before.

The loss of CEO caused me unbearable pain friends.  It’s taken me so long to even write that but it did.  More than he will ever truly know.  But perhaps that pain was to prepare me for an even greater pain–that of losing my husband and all the unmet dreams I had for us.

I can’t even say that I am holding on by a thread anymore.  One person can’t make a marriage.  One person can’t be the only one communicating.  One person can’t give and give and give, while the other one takes and takes and takes.

As one of my blogger friends said to me offline, “A grown man who can’t handle his drivers license and car?  Friend, this problem is far greater than YOU.”

So when do you finally say “enough”?  When do you finally pull the plug friends?  I refuse to become an ugly person should we divorce.  I will hold my head up high and walk away with nothing, if I have to.  I don’t want to fight.  I want my children to be proud of me.  To know and see that I didn’t let my pain turn me into some bitter person.  I want an amicable divorce.  An unconscious uncoupling if you will.  One where we are still close friends, still vacation together with our kids–but just are no longer lovers or spouses.

I just can’t be the glue holding everything together anymore.  I have nothing left to give.  I need a true partner in a husband.  My heart is screaming to have my needs met in our marriage, and it falls upon deaf ears because he has his head stuck in the sand.  My husband stopped trying- stopped fighting for us.  Stopped working at building a new marriage.  He admitted it wholeheartedly tonight when I confronted him.  So nice of him to have shared that memo with me.

I never married with the intent to ever divorce.  It simply was not an option in my mind.  I always believed we would work anything out, even this.  But I’m spent.  Emotionally I’m done.  I feel an incredible desire for closure and to just be alone.