Big Changes

Well ladies and gentlemen, I moved out. Temporarily. Well, at least that’s the plan right now.

“But wait,”you say, “I thought things were going well?”

They were and they weren’t. This whole process has been marked with ups and downs, further ups and further downs, confusion and frustration. My last post highlighted that I was feeling the best I had since D-Day and that I thought we may have turned a corner. I spoke too soon, and sadly we are at our lowest point since D-Day.

I thought that after the family reunion I had last week I would feel more positive about us. I did not. I felt worse. The entire 10 days we were gone I felt like I was putting on a show and in a way, we were. Pretending to be the happy couple in front of my family while behind closed doors, we barely connect.

This separation was my idea, but J agrees with the choice (maybe a little too much for my liking). We don’t know how to fix us. When I have a tough moment with a trigger or errant thought about the affair, he sometimes reacts poorly. Then I get angry and he reacts even more poorly, and suddenly all the bitterness and resentment is spilling over and we are both so tired and angry we can’t even think straight. We went to see our counselor who is guiding us through a “structured separation” with the goal of reconciliation at the end. Nothing legal, nothing binding. We can change our minds at any time, or we can file for divorce at any time. We are both hoping the separation brings us some clarity and gives us some rest from the “trenches” of the affair aftermath if you will.

Counselor suggested 1-2 months apart and asked us to think of ways we can work toward improving the marriage during that time. I want to continue working on my self esteem and try to find healthier ways to deal with the anger and bitterness. J wants to re-engage. He admitted that he pushed all thoughts of the affair out of his mind because he was so tired of the process. He said he wants to educate himself on the healing process and how to help me. We. Shall. See.

Counselor suggested at least weekly date nights and he wants J to plan them all…call me up, ask me out, pick me up – you know the drill. J wants to wait until this weekend for our first date night. 5 days from now. (Nothing like doing the bare minimum of the “at least weekly thing”, hubby). Wait, sorry. I’m working on anger and bitterness, so let me rephrase that. Waiting a few days will probably help us both get some perspective, will let some of my anger dissipate, and hopefully J will feel more refreshed. (There we go, progress already?)

I found a cute little condo that does month to month rentals. It was professionally decorated by an interior designer which I love, and it’s super close to the office. I joined a local “girls night out” club and we are all meeting at the movies this Thursday. I have done double workouts at the gym the past few days, and I’m diving head first into work.

I cried for about 5 minutes straight when I checked into my new “home”. That sadness has since worn off. I will miss J during this time, but I also know that we were both at our wits end. We were both hurting. We both needed a break.

J reads the blog, and I think it’s going to be important for me to keep blogging during this separation. So, I’m going to be password protecting the blog for a little while starting this Saturday. If you want the password, email me. It’s going to be different than my password protected post (something easier to remember) 🙂

This is a sad thing, but I believe it is the right thing. I am hopeful that it will help us save our marriage. Fingers crossed.

Happy

This morning I woke up feeling refreshed. I know I have a hectic day in front of me, but for some reason, I don’t mind. I’m not stressed, I am happy.

Happy. So this is what it feels like. If I’m being completely honest, this is the first time since D-Day that I have been able to put that label on my feelings. Yes, of course there have been moments of happiness, but it hasn’t been like this. I feel so amazing today – peaceful even. I got dressed this morning and glanced in the mirror and thought, “Whoa dang. I look good.” During our commute, I saw the sun peeking through the clouds and was stunned by the beauty. I turned in a project at work and got rave reviews from the team. It is a GOOD day. I am happy.

It’s been a good couple of weeks in our house. More hope, less hurt. More love, less anger. More connection, less frustration. More communication, less confusion. Oh and guess what? We even had sex without the affair popping into my head (for the second time since D-Day). Don’t get me wrong we still have our moments, but I see progress again. I’m hopeful.

This week we are going to a family reunion in my hometown in upstate New York. We’ll be meeting up with J’s donor, road tripping through New England with my cousin and her hubby, boating on the lake, and spending time with my family. I’m so excited.

I’m happy, I’m hopeful, and I’m excited. Goodness, this feels good.

Here’s hoping all of you can find something to be happy, hopeful, and excited about too. If you do, tell me about it. I’d love to hear about it 🙂

Epiphanies All Around

The general theme for my recent posts has been this: J is growing tired of the time it takes to heal. As a result, I withdraw, he is cold, and we are both unhappy. For about 2 months, this has not been a marriage either of us wants to rebuild.

Fast forward to last week when J and I had a conversation about like this.

J: “It’s very difficult for me to follow the up and down path with you. After doing this for 8 months, I’ve tried to ride it out to some extent. It’s safe to say I’ve gone into cruise control mode while you try to work through whatever it is you need to do to get to a place where this can be in our rearview mirror.”

Me: “The biggest problem with what you just said is that you’ve been waiting for ME to work through YOUR mistake. You’re waiting for ME to rebuild OUR marriage without YOU being involved. That’s a problem.”

Later that day J said to me, “Probably the most difficult thing in all this for me is the anger. It shuts me down. I know you’ve been trying to show it less, but when it comes out it makes me crazy. I realize that I can play a big role in how we come back from that. How I react to your emotions either drives you further over the edge or brings you back down. I can do better for you.” (Epiphany #1)

So far, he’s lived up to those words. He’s helping out around the house again, leaving me love notes in my laptop, and when he senses that something is wrong he doesn’t pretend everything is okay. He engages and tries to connect with me. He takes my hand and asks the simple but important question, “How can I help?”

I feel better. The past week with him acting like this (how he should have the whole time) have given me a sense of peace – a sense of hope. Yet, I’m also afraid. I wonder how long this will last. Forever? Until I have an angry moment? Until the next tough live event? Until the next attractive woman in his life throws herself at him? When will I be able to trust him to live up to his promises? Will I ever be able to trust him again?

I talked with my counselor about this today. He said, “You don’t know how long this will last, but you certainly shouldn’t walk on eggshells around him. He needs to realize anger is part of the process.” Then he went on to say, “You can do everything you possibly can to try to create a happy marriage, but ultimately, J needs to make a choice to be involved in that. There is only one thing you can control in all this. You. If he starts down the affair path again or if he withdraws from you again, you can try all you want but HE is the one that will need to make the choice to bring himself back to you. HE will need to make the choice to live up to his promises. You can’t control that. You CAN control what you put into the marriage and what you do if he betrays your trust again. Nothing more, nothing less.” (Epiphany #2)

I felt like could relax at that point. I might not trust him, but I trust myself. I trust that I am capable of being part of a strong and happy marriage. I trust that I can be an incredible wife. I trust that I have the strength to get through anything life (or J) can throw at me. And I trust that I have the wisdom to leave if J shows me he isn’t willing to do the work necessary to create a strong marriage or if he shows me he can’t keep his promises again. I trust myself.

The Price We Pay

Immediately after D-Day, I signed up for newsletters through affairrecovery.com. There are some resources you need to pay for, but many articles can be read for free. I’ve found that as we go through this process, the articles I get in my inbox are timely. This one came last week and a particular section stood out to me.

“Grace isn’t cheap; it comes at a high price. Failure to appreciate the high price paid by those choosing to forgive minimizes the magnitude of their sacrifice. The currencies used by the betrayed spouse to pay off the debt incurred by their mate’s betrayal are pride, ego, and suffering. Forgiving infidelity costs their dignity when they choose to stay rather than leave. It costs them their just due when they choose to forgo justice for the sake of the relationship. It costs them their sanity because they don’t control the painful thoughts invading their mind. Their present-day reality is constantly interrupted with painful memories of the past. It costs them their dreams because this road isn’t one they’d ever planned on traveling. It costs them health because the pain of the offense consumes their life. And I’m only beginning to scratch the surface.” Full article here. 

Often I can’t verbalize my feelings well, and in this case, it was done for me. Perfectly. We betrayed spouses are paying the price of infidelity every single day…paying for the poor choices of others. It’s unfair, it’s painful, and it’s so damn exhausting.

One Year Ago Today

This post has a bit of a different writing style for me, but it’s what felt right this morning so I’m running with it.


One year ago today.

I awake. Groggy. Phone ringing. Glancing at the screen I see “Dad” and also see that it’s 5:30 a.m.

“Hey Dad.” My voice cracks as my body tries to wake up.

“Hey Em.”

“What’s going on?” It’s unlike my dad to call this early. I push myself up so I’m sitting in bed. Next to me, J stirs.

“Your mom isn’t doing too well. I just left for work and I’ll come back to check on her in a couple hours, but maybe you should stop by and check on her too. I think we might need to take her to the hospital.”

“Wow. Okay, is it still the cough?” My mom has been battling a nasty cough as a result of her chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer.

“Yeah and this morning she started muttering to herself and not making sense. Then she tried to get herself to the bathroom and she must have passed out because I found her on the kitchen floor slumped against the cabinets.” J sits up next to me and mouths ‘is everything okay?’ I shake my head.

My dad continues, “I was able to get her off the ground, but she was dead weight. If we have to take her to the hospital I will need help.”

I pause, gathering my thoughts and shaking off the drowsiness. “J has surgery this morning at 8 to remove a lump in his neck. He can’t drive himself because they are putting him under so we will come out to the house right afterward and help out. I think we can be there by 11 at the latest.”

“Okay, that should work. Right now she’s sleeping and I’ll come check on her every couple of hours or so until you get here.”

“Maybe in the meantime you should call Aunt Mary (a nurse) or Misty (my foster sister, also a nurse) to see what they think.”

He replies, “Yeah, I’ll do that. See you soon Em.”

“Bye, Dad.”

I hang up and fill J in. “Do you want me to call my dad and ask him to take me to the surgery?” He asks.

I sigh. This surgery has been occupying all of my thoughts. J is nearly 2 years out from his bone marrow transplant that was supposed to cure his cancer, and now he has 2 lumps on the side of his neck. This surgery is to remove the lumps so they can be biopsied. I’m afraid it’s cancer. Again. I want to be there for his surgery. “No. It’s okay, we’ll just go over to my parent’s house right afterward.”

A few hours later J is coming out of surgery and the doctor has come into the waiting room to speak with me. “Everything went really well” he says as my phone starts vibrating. A quick glance down tells me it’s Dad again before I hit the silence button.

The doctor continues. “We got both lumps and will send them to the lab for testing. You can go wait with him in the recovery room if you’d like. He’ll be a little loopy though.”

I follow the doctor into the recovery room where J is sitting with a nurse who checks his vitals every few minutes. He smiles when he sees me and starts cracking jokes – a happy side effect he tends to have after coming out of surgery. After about 20 minutes, the nurse begins explaining discharge instructions and my phone buzzes again. I silence it without looking, trying to keep track of how many days the incision needs to stay dry and when to schedule a follow up appointment. After she finishes I look down at my phone. Missed call from Dad.

“My dad has called twice” I say to J, who is still loopy and muttering nonsense. Maybe he decided to take my mom to the hospital after all.

J’s face straightens. “Maybe you should call him back. He might have an update on your mom.” Something about the way he sobered up so quickly stands out to me.

After we get J out of recovery and into the car I start heading to my parent’s house and call my dad.

“Hey Em.”

“Hey Dad, sorry I missed you. I was talking with J’s doctor and nurses. Any updates?”

“Yeah, we’re here at the house.” He trails off for a moment before continuing, “Where are you?”

I give him my cross-streets.

“Okay well, listen Em, your mom, she…died.”

Time stops. My ears start ringing. My breath quickens. My world shatters.

“What? What? Dad, what? What are you talking about?”

“I came home to check on her and found her. Uncle Tom and Aunt Diane are here, Uncle Rich is on his way.”

Tears start pouring down my face. “No Dad, no. No. Are you sure? What happened?” I can’t think straight.

“Em, where are you? Are you driving?” he asks.

“Yes, I’m coming there now. I’ll be there in 20 minutes. Dad, what happened?” My body starts to shake from the sobs. I shouldn’t be driving. It’s hard to see through the tears, but I need to get there. Now.

“Honey, pull over and I’ll send Uncle Rich to come get you. He just walked in.”

“No. I’m coming.” Sob. “Dad. No. Dad.” I’m pleading, I want him to be wrong. He must be wrong. This is my mother we are talking about. She was sick, but the doctors said she was going to be fine. This can’t be right.

“I should have waited to tell you until you got closer. It’s just, the ambulance and stuff is outside and I didn’t want you to be scared when you got here. I’m sorry.” I think I hear his voice crack. My dad doesn’t cry. I’ve seen it once, at my wedding. Knowing that he is about to cry sends me further over the edge.

“Are you sure Dad? Are you sure?” I ask through sobs. “No, no, no. No.” I can’t catch my breath.

“Honey, listen to me. Drive safely. We’ll talk when you get here, but drive safely” he urges.

“Okay.” I hang up.

The drive passes in a blur. Things are foggy…maybe that’s just the tears in my eyes. At some point J tells me to pull over and he will drive. I don’t let him. I need to get to the house. My shirt is wet with tears but I can’t stop them. J calls his dad and explains what’s going on. I hear his voice crack too – another man I’ve never seen cry, now crying. My mom? Dead? What does that even mean? How is this possible? I’m only 27, this wasn’t supposed to happen until I was older. My dad must be wrong.


He wasn’t wrong. Today is the one year anniversary of my mom’s death.

This year without her has been the worst year of my life. Each holiday has felt…empty. Wrong.

D-Day happened 5 months after her death. I needed her. I need her. I miss her. I want her guidance. But she’s gone.

I try not to resent J for that day, one year ago today, but I do.

I was my mom’s whole world. Her everything. She loved me so much. She was always there for me, in whatever way she could be, and I wasn’t there for her.

Instead, I was with J. J, who tossed me aside. J, who chose another woman. J, who betrayed my trust and lied to me at every turn. That day, I chose to be with him instead of her. I made him my priority when I was just an option to him.

If he had told me what he had done, I might have been there with her. He had ended his affair 6 months before my mom died. If he had told me right away, then maybe I would have said, “Yes, your dad can take you to your surgery. I’m going to be with my mom.” If he had told me right away, I could have gotten the guidance I need so badly. I could have had my mom’s hand to hold and shoulder to cry on. But I didn’t have those things. It’s one more thing his lies have robbed me of.

I’m angry with myself for the choice I made to be with J a year ago. I feel as though I failed her. My mom deserved to have me by her side that day. I don’t think J did.

Please, take a moment to meet my mom. She came from an incredibly poor family of 13 children. In her childhood she suffered intense physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. The abuse left lasting scars – some visible, some not. She ran away from home 3 times before the state finally put her in the foster care system, but she didn’t let her past define her.

I’m named after the person who gave her a scholarship to go to college where she was elected homecoming queen. She continued her education and got two master’s degrees. She wanted to make a difference, so she worked in elementary education both as a teacher and administrator. She fostered 3 children before she had me, trying to give back to the system. She stood up for people when no-one else would and she didn’t care if something was unpopular, as long as she believed it was right. She touched lives everywhere she went. She had a kind heart and fierce loyalty. She was well respected and well liked in the community. Since her death, her (foster) grandson has had a little girl and they named her after my mom. There has been a scholarship set up in her memory, and the first recipient was just awarded a portion last week. My beautiful mother is still touching lives.

I can’t go back and change my choice from a year ago, just like J can’t go back and change the choices he made. But, we can learn from them, and maybe I can learn a bit more from my mom, even now.

I’ve been wallowing lately. Poor me. My life isn’t going the way it’s “supposed to”. Cancer, death, and cheating – oh my!

My mom had the hardest life of anyone I know. And she didn’t just survive, she thrived. She was a force.

Maybe instead of feeling sorry for myself, I can take a page from my mother’s book and become better, stronger. Maybe I can use these struggles to launch myself toward being the best version of myself.

Maybe that’s the best way to honor her and remember her, today and always.

I love you Mom.

For All of Us…

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts lately from betrayed spouses (myself included) about feeling inadequate, unattractive, mean, lazy, overweight or (insert negative adjective here).

A friend posted a link to this site on Instagram and I wish I could buy one for each of us. Instead, I’ll buy one for myself and post the link here. If nothing else, I hope it reminds you that you are enough.

Also, no judgement if you buy one and fill that mug up with wine 😉

ENOUGH_MUG_1024x1024

http://mulberrypressco.com/collections/shop/products/you-are-enough-mug

Hello Kettle? This is Pot. You’re black.

I am embarrassed and ashamed to write this post, but the events I am about to describe led J and I to what I believe is the next stage in our recovery so I will share. This might contain some triggers for betrayed spouses.

Last week, I got a text message from a familiar number, but not one that was in my list of contacts. It was my cheating ex (referenced in D-Day) whom I haven’t spoken with in 8 or 9 years. He heard about my mom and was reaching out to offer condolences. After a couple of messages back and forth with the usual “hope things are going well” and “say hi to the family” type comments, I assumed I would never hear from him again. I asked J if he wanted to see the messages and he said “Do I have anything to worry about?” I laughed and replied with “no”. I was wrong.

The next night I was hanging out at a friend’s house explaining how different and cold J had been lately. As I was telling her how hurt I was, I got another message from the ex. He was out with an old friend we both knew from college and while the two were reminiscing my name was brought up. We sent several friendly (or so I thought) messages back and forth before he asked me if I remembered a particularly embarrassing event from college. The conversation that followed went something like this.

Me: Wow. I do not remember that. That is super embarrassing. My cheeks are so red right now. 

Ex: You should come down here and let me see those cheeks 😉

Me: Right…I don’t think my husband or your wife would appreciate that.

Ex: We both know what that means, let’s fuck.

Wait what?? I was a shocked as I’m sure you are. First of all, obviously nothing had changed with him. Second, we went from 0 to 60 in 4 text messages flat. Third, I did not know that my message had a hidden meaning that said I wanted to have sex.

And that’s where it should have ended…but it didn’t.

I drove home to find J sleeping on the couch so I grabbed a glass of wine and the ex and I continued sending messages to each other. Shortly thereafter, he called me. We spent most of the conversation reminiscing with him making loaded comments here or there. He made it clear that if I agreed, we would have a no strings attached night. Then he said, “So what’s wrong in your marriage?” I replied with, “What do you mean? Everything’s fine.” He came back with, “You wouldn’t be talking to me if everything were fine.” So I filled my wine glass and I told him about the affair. I think I even asked him what was wrong with me since I couldn’t keep a guy faithful. He assured me that it wasn’t me. He flattered me, commenting on things he remembered about me, the way I look, etc.

Before I continue, I want to make it abundantly clear that I did not meet up with the ex that night, nor do I want to. There is not one part of me that wants to go down that road. Ever. The thought of meeting up with him was/is not enticing whatsoever. However, the attention I was getting was flattering. I’ve mentioned in the past that the affair has made me second guess myself – my looks, my personality, my body, etc. Hearing from someone that I haven’t seen in nearly a decade and having him tell me I’m beautiful with a great body made me feel good.

He asked me to send him a picture and after some back and forth I caved and sent one. Hearing him tell me I was still “hot” gave me some sort of validation that I was still desirable and I realized that was what I had been looking for. Since I had gotten what I wanted, I told him I was going to bed and he said, “You really don’t want to meet up with me?” I said, “If I want to have sex tonight, I’ll go wake my husband up and have sex with him. You should do the same with your wife.” Then we said goodbye.

I went out to the living room for a glass of water and I looked at J sleeping on the couch. Reality hit and guilt washed over me. What the hell had I just done? I had a conversation with an ex (whom I don’t even like) and let him believe he might have a chance just to make myself feel wanted? I sent him an inappropriate picture that was intended for my husband just so I would feel desirable? I was his accomplice in the betrayal of his wife, and I know what that pain is like! Worst of all, I betrayed J. What was wrong with me? I was disgusted with myself.

The next morning I jumped in the shower and waited a few minutes for J to join me like he does every morning. While I waited, I thought about what I had done. I couldn’t believe it. I felt so incredibly guilty. I could actually hear everything I have said to J about his affair over the past 7 months running through my head but this time directed at myself. (i.e. How could you? What were you thinking? This is disgusting.) I knew I had to tell J.

As soon as he got in the shower I told him everything. Through tears I explained how the conversation had started, where it led, that I sent the picture – everything. I told him that I have absolutely no desire to sleep with the ex (or anyone else for that matter) but that the attention felt good and it felt good to feel wanted. Given how things have been going for the last month or so, I expected him to tell me it was over and we were done.

Instead, he pulled me in and hugged me.

This experience allowed me to see how easy it is to toe that line and subsequently cross that line. What I did and what J did are not the same thing, but this has made it possible for me to empathize with him, which is something I haven’t been able to do through all of this. This helped me realize that it wasn’t about her it was about J. Just like it wasn’t about the ex, it was about me wanting a self esteem boost. In both cases, someone was convenient and made it easy for us to make the wrong choices. This brought me down off of my “I would NEVER do anything like this” pedestal.

Disclaimer: I am in no way advocating for betrayed spouses to do what I did. Whether it’s fair or not, what I did could have ended our marriage. However, I think that the empathy I am able to feel for J as a result of my actions has allowed us to move forward – past the resentment and bitterness that has been building for the past month. J is no longer disconnected from me like I mentioned in my last post. I feel less anger and more understanding. While I don’t think we are anywhere near done with our recovery, I wholeheartedly believe we have turned a corner. J thinks so too. We’re both still on this roller coaster ride, but now it feels like we are in the same car. Corny analogy, but that’s how it feels – like we are a team again.