May 9, 2011

An affair I’d like to forget.

I’d try almost anything to obliterate it.

Some bitch hussy chick found my husband to be charismatic, wonderful, funny and, apparently, pretty sexy. Qualities I hadn’t bothered to notice in a long time. Probably because he hadn’t been exuding these qualities. Around me.

But I digress.

He really is a great guy. No more, no less perfect than I. We have a beautiful, funny, caring son; two cuddly cats; a modest home in a pleasant wooded neighborhood. There’s even a white fence. No, it’s not picket. Split rail. An omen perhaps?

A winding paver stone walkway leads from our front door through some unkempt flower beds to our driveway. It has subtle curves. Much unlike the careening 19 years of our marriage. We’ve had good and bad times. Highs and lows. Like any marriage.

The trees stand haphazardly in our yard. Most have withstood violent storms. The only casualty in the 13 years of living here was a large maple struck by lightening a few years back. Perhaps a sign of personal torment ahead. I’m not exactly good with metaphors. Damn. I’ll just spit this whole thing out.

I overheard his phone conversation one night last fall. He was in the basement and I was on the 2nd floor where he thought I’d settled in for the night. He didn’t count on me venturing downstairs into the kitchen for a snack and, either way, must have assumed the sound of the game–football or baseball, I don’t recall–would drown out his voice. Apparently, he was too caught up in his repartee to detect my footsteps.

It’s not unusual for him to call his brother during games. But his tone was flirty lusty. I edged closer to the top of the basement stairs to hear him reminiscing about the last time he saw and made love to her. (choke). Laughing and telling her he missed her. Approving the naked photo she texted over. I stood, shaking, at the top of the basement stairs and listened long enough to a) confirm it wasn’t some sick joke, b) make sure I wasn’t sleep walking and c) collect evidence before flicking the light switch on and off to signal my presence. “I can hear you, you know,” I said.

My world collapsed.  That was almost six months ago—just days after our lackluster 19th anniversary and a few days before my birthday.

My forgiveness. A work in progress.

It wasn’t immediate, but I forgave him. Or so I thought. I have my moments days of second-guessing myself. Should I have let him back in? What if I hadn’t found out? Does he truly love me? Will there be another? Do I really still love him? Here are six things that kept me sane.

  1. We have a son. This speaks for itself.
  2. We were friends a year before we dated. We met in August 1989 and I really liked this guy as a person before he got the nerve to ask me out a year later. But I wasn’t into ‘nice’ guys at the time and I came very close to backing out of the date. But I went and that was it. Stuck like glue, married in 1992. (If that’s not a song, it should be).
  3. My husband’s string of bad fortune. A serious car accident about 3 years ago screwed up his left wrist. He’s left-handed. He could’ve been killed—both cars involved were totaled. One month later, appendectomy. Then there were 3 wrist surgeries. A layoff. Spiral leg fracture. Almost deadly infection. He was laid up off and on for months. Then he broke both wrists after flying off his bike to avoid crashing into our son who was on his bike. Did I mention the layoff? All of these health issues undermined his motivation to find a new job. Then he had to have the titanium rod removed from his leg because it was painful and possibly infected. Another surgery. Fun times. I’m sure I’m forgetting something.
  4. Compassion. One never knows how one will react until the situation smacks you upside the head. But somehow I had an open heart and mind. Yes, I was hurt. [I found my way back to the bedroom, picked up my book and stared at it. Moments later, my husband appeared. I looked at him and said, “It’s over.”  He gave me a blank look then left. I’m not sure how much time had passed before he reappeared sullenly. “When do you want me to get my stuff out of here?” ASAP, I said.] Pretty compassionate, eh? [After packing a make-shift overnight bag–was he going to see her? who was she?–he went into our son’s room. His voice was low. “WHY?” our son cried. “Why Daddy?” I couldn’t sit there and listen to my son’s heart break so I made my way downstairs to the kitchen. It was impossible to ignore the anguish that poured out of my son’s room. My son–9 1/2 years old at the time–came downstairs in despair–“Why, Mommy? Why?”–and fell into my arms. “I don’t know, sweetie.” He wanted to know if we’d still be a family. Or would he be like his friend, Jon, who was shuttled back and forth between his parents. “I don’t know.” My husband kissed us both good-bye, told us he was sorry and walked out the door]. But…
  5. I love him.
  6. He loves me. I believe that in my own insecure way.

Oh, one other thing that does not deserve its own number: She seemed a bit loopy. This helped. But it also made me wonder why he would go for a loopy gal. What did that say about me?

The haunting.

Okay. I have to admit. Trust issues? I had ‘em even before this  “affair”…so the real-life affair, unlike those that I created in my imagination, really did me in. But we sprang back to life without even planning to because I let him back in the house so he had somewhere to sleep. Our collective finances would not allow for an indefinite hotel stay—Holiday Inn Express or not. I let him back in as a friend, not sure of what I was doing. I felt bad for the guy. He messed up. He wanted to make things right. I didn’t know how I felt about that, whether I could remain married to a man who toyed with my trust in the worst possible way.

Before we knew it, it was like we were back in our 20’s. Friends. Accepting each other despite our flaws. Talking. Actually talking about meaningful things. And we fell in love all over again.

A few weeks ago I found myself in trapped in affair paranoia relapse. I’m not sure whether this is the clinical name for such suffering, but it will have to do. It crept up on me like a poisonous snake then swiftly, suddenly took hold.

  1. The honeymoon ended.
  2. Every time he looks at his cell or texts a friend, I wonder—is it her? Or someone else?
  3. We don’t have a lot of deep things to discuss since we’re together all the time. (He’s still unemployed).
  4. He had sex with her. Our sex had a blip of make-up wowsa.
  5. All of my prior relationships were with jerks who treated me like crap and I wonder if all this time he’s been posing as the nice guy.
  6. I’m insecure. Really?
  7. I’m 21 months older than the hubby. She‘s 13 or 14 years younger than him.
  8. A few years ago, a friend (now ex-friend) came onto him blah blah blah when she was wasted on martinis and he was about to walk her home. Also drunk, he was taken off-guard. Her lips landed on his. He told me about it first thing the following day. I can’t shake the idea that he’s decided never to tell me what ‘really‘ happened since that he knows damn well that knowledge would compromise the already fractured trust. The stories I make up in my head are much more vivid.
  9. A good friend is going through a divorce and suspects cheating; a good friend who has already divorced suspected cheating; a neighbor around the corner is getting divorced and recently moved out of the neighborhood. It’s like post traumatic stress syndrome only worse.

The little reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood upright again when the storm had passed over.
~ Aesop

I have to make a choice, I know. Forgive him the entire past for once and for all. Or end the relationship. It can’t go on like this anymore. He got his hair cut today and when he returned I said it seemed he was gone pretty long. Something going on with the stylist? I don’t care if she just got married.

Do I love him? Yes. I mean… I think. Sure.

Can I forgive him? Yes.

Can I trust him? Uh… I need to or our marriage will dissolve on its own. He’ll get tired of me asking who he’s texting or why he’s been gone so long when he just went out for a hair cut (even though, as it turns out, he was back in the right amount of time) or why he’s not paying attention to me or why he moved his foot away or forgot to kiss me goodbye.

That’s it. Starting today, I’m making the choice to shove all of this in the past and let go of the blame and anger. Clean slate. Besides, who else will accept me on the days I wear sweatshirts or feel down or say something ridiculous? Who else will laugh at my non sequiturs? Who else can I trust more than I trust him?

NOTE: This is easier said than done, but I am committed. I’m trying.



The One Simple thing you can always do that works every time if things are Tough in your Relationship.

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