Forgiveness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I woke up this morning, like every other morning, and went for my run.  It’s a poignant day because two years ago, Laura (in my story) sat me down and said, “Start exercising everyday”.  Well, I took that to heart–nearly 1700 miles later, I can say, it’s been one piece of advice that I’m grateful I followed.  In short, it’s been a blessing.

But it’s also been a curse because as someone once said off-line to me, “Don’t you find exercise to be incredibly hard?  Because it is for me–that is when my brain goes nuts and I think back to my affair.”

“Yes”, I said.  “I do too.  But thats also why I run.  To work through all my pain.”

But like Forest Gump, here’s what I discovered during the end of that milestone…I could only ever get so far in my recovery because the one person I needed to talk to–to move forward and heal in my life–I wasn’t supposed to contact.  Yeah….CEO.

For months, my brain has been screaming at me to reach out.  To make peace with him.  To seek his forgiveness for shutting down, walking away, not talking to him or replying to his messages.  For not protecting him from the fallout of my confession.

No matter how hard I tried to move forward with my life (and make no mistakes, I have), this issue remained front-and-center.  I circled around these thoughts for miles, upon miles as I ran every week.  Until I finally sat by the ocean this morning, looked out towards the sea, opened my phone and broke 16 months of no contact.

Yes, my dear friends.  That was me today.

I apologize if I have disappointed you all.  But this is my true reality.  This is my story and how I struggle to remove CEO from my thoughts.  I am trying to move forward with my marriage, at warp speed no less.  But how can one truly move on, when there is this giant bolder of pain sitting over there that needs to be forgiven?

I recognized how unhealthy it was to hold everything in.  Clearly, I’m an expert at that.  Heck, I haven’t even begun to write about our actual affair that’s how great I am at holding every card to my chest.  But I needed to say the things that I did.  My contact with him was for MY healing.  To move forward with my husband and not have this constant dialogue running through my head.

I was taught as a kid that if you did something wrong, you sought someone’s forgiveness.  And all this time, I wrestled with doing just that, in order to fully move on and heal.  Going “no contact” and pretending that you caused no damage to another persons life and marriage is naive and cowardly.  I had a part to play in all of this and I needed to face it head-on, or else I felt I would never move past where my husband and I had worked so tirelessly to get to.

So as heartfelt as I could, that is what I did.  I contacted him.  CEO’s response was terse, and awkward.  Hell he could have been in a meeting for all I know.  But once I started, there was no stopping me.  Reaching out was about my healing.  And I told him this.  His responses really didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.  I needed to follow my heart, seek his forgiveness and say the things that have been on my heart for a very very long time.

Did I say everything, cover every last thing in this talk?  No.  Not even close.  You can’t sum up everything in a short message.  I explained that I wished I could explain everything but even if I had an entire day to talk, I doubt that would be enough time to convey everything.

Do I regret it?  Nope.  Because I know this isn’t to reestablish contact.  It’s to move forward.  For me.  To ultimately give every piece of myself to my husband and to not look back any longer at CEO.  For closure on every side.

With breaking no contact, I do feel a sense of relief in addressing how things ended.  I asked for his forgiveness and he granted it to me.  I shared that I wake up every day, thinking he hates me.  He said, he doesn’t.  It’s been healing to see those words, after telling myself over and over that he must.  I explained that I don’t have an enemy in this world, but because of how things ended, I believed that’s how he viewed me.  He said no, he has no enemies.  He doesn’t hate anyone.  That’s not who he is.

So, I have a heavy heart in knowing I broke NC, but my intentions were good.  When my husband came home, I told him immediately.  Read everything I wrote and everything he said in return.  Full transparency my friends.  It’s not easy but it’s the only shot we have at making this marriage work.

There was a part of me that wanted to not tell my husband, because I don’t want to cause him any further pain.  But I knew I had to.  I was emotionally drained and every fiber in my muscles were aching last night.  Strangely, it felt good asking for CEO’s forgiveness but interacting with him brought those all too familiar “friends” along for the ride–fitful sleep (non-existent is more like it), a swirling mind (Did I word my contact properly?  Did I seek his forgiveness in the right way?), utter exhaustion and fatigue.  I wasn’t expecting that to happen.  Truthfully, I don’t miss feeling like that.  But while CEO was in my life, that’s exactly how I felt.

Conflicted.  Over-analyzing everything.  Trying to perfectly word everything and not just be…myself.

I long for the peace and serenity to return to me.  I expect it to.  This would have set me back tenfold had I done this a year ago.  But I wasn’t ready.  I could only reach out on my own terms, when I was strong enough to do so.  It’s taken me sixteen months to get there.  And along the way, you guys have not just been my readers but a few have become genuine friends.  I may have lost CEO’s friendship, but ironically I’ve gained more friends by opening up and sharing my pain.  Real friends that know everything–the good, the bad, the ugly side of Two Cheating Hearts.  And still love and support me regardless.

Thanks for holding my hands Woman Invisible, even during your crazy day yesterday you were there.  And thank you RecoveringWoman for your sage advice and friendship.  It’s helped keep me on this path to restoration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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.

The Letter

“I have an assignment for you.” I emailed later that week.  “I want a confession letter outlining everything.”  My email was longer than that, but that was the gist.  The idea being this was his shot to be 100% honest with me.  There would be no miscommunications regarding what was said during this time in our marriage later on.  It would be there, in black and white, for both of us to see.  And it would be in his own words.  No more lies, no more trickling out the truth.  I wanted every gory detail.

“You have one week to give it to me.” I said later that evening.  I thought that was quite considerate considering the situation.  However, I wanted dates and times which required him digging through cell phone records and other documents.  He agreed to write it.  What choice did he really have though?  It was either that, or divorce.

When he handed me the letter, I checked the last page.  I was wise enough to request that he end it with some truth statement.  I wanted to know that his confession letter was actually truthful and not packed with lies.  He included it, which meant he actually read my entire email, kind of like those riders celebrities include in their contracts to ensure only white M&M’s are kept backstage.  Only I wasn’t famous.

Things were icy between us that week.  He got asked to travel to San Diego for work, which meant another business trip was on the horizon.  You know, the exact situation which triggered him cheating.  I wasn’t about to let him go alone either.  So the three of us went on his business trip, enjoying the pool while he worked.

On our journey home, Viviane fell asleep.  It gave us time to talk.  I had been pondering one of the things he had confessed to and wanted to double check a few details.  Like did he really use a condom, which is what he wrote in his letter.  If so, did she have it in her purse?  Or was it him?  Being the detailed person that I am, I couldn’t shake this feeling that he lied about that part.  So when I pressed further, when I asked if he had bought them before heading back to his hotel, or if she whipped it out of her purse, he caved.  Through tear filled eyes he said, “I lied in the letter.”

That is all it took for me.  I phoned my mom and informed her that I was dropping Vivian off for a few hours.  That me and hubby had some talking to do.  It was the longest 45 minutes of my life till we finally were alone.  I pulled up to our driveway and slammed shut the car door, then ran inside our house and closed every single window.

I then proceeded to scream every profanity known to man while my husband stood stoically at one end of our house, me at the other.  Sitting on the floor of our kitchen, I was sobbing.  Then screaming anything that came to my mind.  “You fucking lied to me.  You asshole.  You have destroyed our family.  You have single handedly ruined everything we built.”

It was a cathartic release.  Something primal coming out of me during those dark moments.  Up until that point, I had been in control of my emotions.  I had handled everything diplomatically.  But this was different.  This was my moment to let it all out.

And I did.

The following day, I wrote a post on a mommy blog asking for any good therapist referrals.  At last check, it had thousands of page views and nearly crashed their servers (ok well maybe not exactly).  But it got a helluva response, as if that should have been a surprise.  One unintended consequence was that my post got included in their email blast.  And I received two emails, from two different friends, who had seen my post.  They were offering their support, but at the same time felt as if they had just read my diary or something.  Obviously, they felt torn, as if they shouldn’t know about this.  But they did.  And they wanted to see how I was doing.

That night, after I put V to bed, I cried myself to sleep.  The pain was gut wrenching.

 

 

A night like no other

It all started one evening, quite late in fact.  As I reached over to turn off the bedside light, my husband quietly said, “I have something to tell you”.  I had no idea that in that instant, my marriage would be broken forever more.  But it was.  And it has been.  In so many ways since then.

His were one night stands while on business trips abroad and closer to home.  They had actually occurred years before and this was his moment of coming clean.  “Tell me everything, start to finish” I whispered back.  And as each word lifted off his tongue, I felt something extrude out of my chest.  When I glanced up my eyes, I saw a white cloud of smoke billowing up from me, floating upward towards the darkened ceiling.  The contrast was undeniable.  I know what I saw and I know what I felt.

In that instant, my husbands voice trailed off to a slow blur of one.long.continuous.strand.of.syllables.  And I found myself staring at the smoke and realizing that it was in fact, a tangible thing.  It had been inside my heart unbeknownst to me.  I truly believe that it was the core of my heart, the core of our love dying in that very instant.  My trust, my naivety, my utter adoration and unwavering love being evicted from my heart.  Call me crazy, but I mourned the loss of that little nucleus more than anything else while in therapy.  And I wanted it back damn it.

I wish I could say the confession ended that night.  But like most confessions, it was trickled out over the course of two solid weeks.  It was brutal.  I begged and pleaded for the truth, for the whole truth.  But despite my pleas, I would be pacified each evening till my husband gained the confidence to finally divulge more.  It prolonged my pain and caused unneeded stress and anxiety, as each day I wanted to start healing.  Only I couldn’t.  Because each night, the story would change and it was like starting all over again.  Like ripping a wound back open night after night.

Simply put, it was unbearable.