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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight

The universe has a funny way of working in my life, especially the last 48 hours.  I’ve been thinking quite a bit about CEO, for various reasons which I won’t get into here.  Suffice to say, I really tried to put those thoughts aside and focus on my family today.

But the universe…had other plans.

As I walked out of a bathroom this evening, I came face to face (and shoulder to shoulder) with CEO’s wife.  Yep, this is now the second time I have seen her actually.

I froze, while Vivian kept pace to exit the restrooms accordingly.  She noticed I hadn’t moved a step and said, “Mom, come on.  Let’s go.”  I just stood there, while I watched his wife wash her hands, oblivious to who was standing behind her.  A minute passed and I finally walked outside, joining the mayhem of New Orleans Square.

Only it’s not the one you’re thinking.

I quickly walked over to my husband and told him what happened.  And within a minute, she walked out of the bathrooms and right behind my husband.  I stared, frozen again, as she gingerly made her way through the outdoor dining area.

I turned to my husband again and said, “I need to know if he is here.  I will be right back.”  As I walked the perimeter of the restaurant, I felt Zane’s tiny hand clasp into mine.  And then I saw her back, sitting at a table with what appeared to be CEO.

I immediately walked away and back to my husband, only to nod ‘yes’ at his inquisitive eyes.  Three minutes later, she walked through the restaurant again only this time, CEO was trailing behind her.

He had his eyes firmly planted on the ground.  He didn’t see me, despite walking right behind my husband.  We were less than five feet from each other, but surrounded by the public at large.  To be honest, he looked miserable.  Not the CEO I knew.

The entire situation felt like an out of body experience.  My husband has asked many times, “What would you do if you ever saw him?”  And each time I’ve said, “I don’t know.  Depends which day you ask me that question.”  But in that moment, I did nothing…

Very surreal and not what you expect to happen at the Happiest Place on Earth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Real Time Thoughts- Part 2

There’s a lot of healing that will come after 1 year of NC.  Taking a vacation instead of thinking of your AP is a huge help.  Before embarking on this trip, I really held onto the mindset that I wanted this trip filled with reconnection to not only my spouse but my children to.  It’s been 12 blissful days filled with every conceivable adventure and paradise one could ever dream of….And you know what?  In the end, my husband has trumped any momentary happiness CEO brought into my life.  It’s a stark reminder that our spouses are capable of being what we once knew them to be: leaders, adventurers and exhilarating lovers.  Yet life and responsibilities of work and home skews your perceptions after nearly two decades of marriage.image

I feel very fortunate to be where I am.  To experience the joy and love of my family at their best.  I wish all betrayed and wandering spouses could find their way back to such nirvana.

Life…is pretty epic friends.

Get out there and live the life you dream of, instead of looking back at what you think you had or lost.

I promise…it’s worth it.