January 4, 2013

How My Infidelity with a Woman Healed Me. ~ Amber Shumake

Photo: gogoloopie

I constantly felt wounded in my marriage.

And the biblical adage was wrong: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

In my marriage, hope was greater than love. I clung to the hope that something, someone—him or me—might change, that I would see my reflection in the mirror again, that the bleak sight of my eyes, two hollow harbors of disappointment, would no longer frighten me.

He used words to rape me, and when that ceased to suffice, he wielded weapons. He and I threw spatulas and then punches and when that got old, furniture. He and I shared love and rage and when that got old, nothing at all.

I remember him saying as I was leaving, “But I thought we were doing better,” and I saw him for the first time as the wounded boy that he was, had always been. “I mean, we don’t even really fight anymore.”

He was right. Circa our second anniversary, my soul departed my body to reside in the cracked plaster of our vintage home, leaving my body empty, a vessel for him to do as he wanted with it.

“It’ll be okay, baby,” my mom said as if I had skinned my knee or forgotten my homework one night when I left. A 24-year-old child, drowning in an unhappy tidal wave of a marriage, I found no comfort in it’ll be okay.

“It’ll never be okay!” I sobbed in her chest. Feeling four years old instead of 24, tears storming from my eyes, snot billowing in my nose, I said again, “It’ll never be okay.” I hoped she would hear my plea. Send a lifeguard. Send someone to save me.

I wanted to know it was over. I knew I needed to leave. I needed to save me from myself.

But I also knew instinctively that even though the tide was violent, it would eventually subside. And when it did, its beauty mesmerized me, inviting me to gaze in awe, begging me to trudge in to feel the water and sand between my toes that felt like everything I’d ever longed to feel.

So when he called the next day begging to talk, I always plunged back in the water. I believed him when he said he would change. I forgot about how broken and battered I felt; I forgot about my conversation with my mother; I forgave him. And it was okay, as my mother said…at least, for a while.

The cycle inevitably began again—a quiet reminder of a painful childhood.

When my dad left my mother—for another man—I made a silent pact of loyalty to my mother: I’ll never be like him; I’ll never embarrass you; I’ll make you proud; I’ll be normal, whatever normal means. It’ll be okay.

And so I killed off the parts of myself that were like him. The gay part was the first to go. And for over a decade, I lied to myself about whom I loved and who I was—until I met her: a colleague, a friend, a confident lesbian.

The attraction felt larger than me. I’m not sure at what point I began wishing she would kiss me. I wanted to know what it would feel like because I couldn’t feel anything at all. I grew tired of lying to her, perhaps because she was so honest—so genuine and authentic. I started speaking to the emotional, physical, and sexual abuse that I was so ashamed to admit I had been enduring. Speaking it aloud allowed me to hear for the first time how utterly pathetic I sounded.

“Do you not see yourself as a battered woman?” a therapist later asked after she tired of hearing me say, “Well he only hit me a handful of times, and I wasn’t innocent. I fought him back…in the beginning.”

I wanted to feel the warmth that was ever-present in her eyes. I knew I’d feel safe in her arms. She’d be soft, gentle, loving—everything that my marriage lacked.

And she was that, and so much more.

My name is Amber, and I’m an adulterer. I should wear a big “A” on my chest like Hester Prynne. I slept with her while I was married to him. And it felt simultaneously atonable and crucifying because she’s a female and not a male.

I’m not proud of betrayal of my husband, but it saved me from further betrayal of myself. Betrayal got me out of my marriage. Betrayal taught me to love the eyes staring back at me in the mirror. Betrayal helped me heal the wounds of my past.

It’ll never be okay, but I always will. I was then. I am now. I am love.


(This is the fifth in a seven-part elephant love and relationships series with content partner The Good Men Project on the theme question, Why Do Good People Cheat? Check out , How to Be a Cheater Forgiving Adultery and When a Marriage Melts Down.)


Amber Shumake lives in a suburb of Ft. Worth, TX – over twenty miles from the nearest yoga studio. Gallivanting throughout the metroplex in her Jeep, she prefers to drive topless. As she rocks out to spiritual podcasts and audio books, she remains always vigilant of the local owl who occasionally lands on her windshield as a reminder to slow down, to seek only Truth. She calls Karmany Yoga, the donation-based studio where she teaches, “home.”  Trading one compulsive addiction for another, she currently prefers backbends to drugs, tea to coffee, and Facebook to Twitter. Having recently completed her Masters in Counseling, she unites yoga and therapy, wiping away sweat and tears, connecting people to their beauty—one empowering arm balance and inversion at a time. A born writer, she encourages others to revise the life stories that no longer serve them. She dreams {in no particular order} of marrying her partner, growing a family to play with her Blue “Healer,” writing a book, and changing the world.  She’s pretty easy to find in the virtual world at Facebook , Twitter  and her blogspot blog, BackBendAddict.



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Ed: Lori Lothian & Brianna Bemel

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