One Woman to Another

I wanted what you had

Happiness, home and loving husband.

You took it all for granted,

You were not there for him.

Call it what you will.

A mid-life crisis, a madness,

Two desperate people saving each other

From drowning in the cesspit of life

 

I realise it was transient.

I knew the rules

I pushed the boundaries,

Gradually, carefully and

Embedded in the coils of lies,

I tried to inveigle him in.

I dropped everything when he called,

Or in reality when you called

And reminded him of your engagement.

I never asked about a future.

I never asked for anything.

I have nothing now, no gifts to treasure,

No compromising photographs,

Only memories of lies.

 

We were not honest with each other.

I never said what I wanted.

I never talked about tomorrow.

I never asked why he needed to return

To your bed, even when you were not there.

I never asked what it meant, I did not

Want to hear the answer.

 

I already knew, he respected you.

He was yours and you were his.

I lived on borrowed time.

I wanted to steal him from you,

But he did not want to be purloined.

He was overcome with loss of joy and meaning.

I was a mere digression.

We dressed it up and called it love,

But lies was all it was.

 

I underestimated you.

I did not know how strong you were.

I did not realise the power of truth and honour.

When you first found out, I was not worried.

Now I can be his, I thought.

I played along, and you lived a fantasy

Of a marriage resurrected.

I loved the power of deceiving you

It gave me a kick like nothing else.

But my bubble burst and I abandoned.

 

I see my power was fleeting.

You were too strong.

With no entreaty, no pleading,

You gave a choice, a Hobson one,

Simple and straightforward.

On one end of a see saw, me perched high,

On the other you, family and his self-respect

Keeping him firmly anchored to the ground.

I know now I never stood a chance.

The only person he ever wanted was you,

His wife, and I am left bereft.

5-1-resentment-cycle-med1

Resentment

Today, I am flying back to my home after not seeing my husband for two weeks.I am not sure what I am coming home to. Why does he find it so difficult to decide what he wants? That is all I am asking. Make up your mind, jump off your fence and commit one way or the other. I do not think I have ever realised that he was such a fence sitter, a member of the sore arse brigade. By all accounts, he is incredibly decisive at work, so why is it such a problem for him at home? It is true as I reflect back that I made most of the decisions when it came to us and our family, although I would have consulted with him and made compromises to take account of his opinion, but I had the last word.

Was that wrong?

It was a pattern we feel into by accident. It was never intended to be that way, but I thought I was helping Tom by giving him the freedom to concentrate on his career. He worked incredibly hard and incredibly long hours, so I thought I was doing the right thing by shouldering the burden of decision making in the home. It did work well for 20 plus years. Things got done, but then something changed.

Resentment Arrived

 Resentment can come to anyone at any time, but they have to choose to open the door to it and welcome it into their life. Resentment is a disease that we choose to catch and slowly it spreads within us like a cancer. It starts out small in one tiny corner and then invidiously it spreads into every corner of our being. Once we allow it in, it is very difficult to control and it becomes our master and turns us into behaving like animals fighting for survival.

The wonderful thing about never making decisions, is that you always have someone to blame and that someone is never yourself. Molly, for example, is a notorious member of the sore arse brigade, so much so that her mates would make a game out of seeing the distortions she would go through to avoid having an opinion. So she and Tom drifted into an affair because both of them were incapable of making a decision. Their excuse was “it just happened”.  Guess what, all sorts of things just happen to people who sit on the fence.

Treatment

 Just as a cancer can spread within our bodies unless we undergo extreme treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation or an operation, we need extreme treatment to get rid of resentment. I realise now that Tom’s indecision is linked to the fact that he never underwent that programme designed to rid his body of the cancer of resentment.  Within him, there are still small pockets of resentment left that are holding on to him and preventing him from fully committing to us.

 

Resentment is catching

 The biggest problem with resentment, however, is that it easily spreads from one person to another. It would be easy for me to become resentful of Tom and the pain he exposed me to. It would be easy to wallow in pain and sink into resentment. If we are to survive this ordeal, we have to consciously fight against this poison with every fibre of our being. There is an old Indian saying that inside each of us there are two wolves, one white and one black, one good and the other evil. The wolf that wins is the wolf that you feed and resentment is the food of evil.

So fight it, resist it with your whole being and stay the whole, complete loving person you are. However, for me, the real difficulty is that I live in limbo. Tom has not committed himself fully to a future with or without me.  When I say the unspeakable such as does he want a separation, it seems to be a relief for him. But he cannot bring himself to make a decision. Instead, I feel sometimes he wants to frustrate me into making a decision for him as then he still has the crutch that it is someone else’s fault. I made my decision and I will stick to it, no matter how difficult Tom makes it.

Still I will get angry.  I will express that anger however I want such as through crude poems.  We are taught it is not right to express our anger.  That is wrong.  We should be taught to express it in safe ways like a pressure valve in machinery. The truth is that if we had safe ways to express our anger, there would be less affairs.  Having an affair is the ultimate “FUCK YOU”.

I am not the wife

I fuck your husbands,
I fuck their bodies, minds and souls.
When I finish fucking them,
They are so screwed that they
are shadows of their former selves.
I fuck you and your children
And your happy families.
I am the other woman.

Why? You might ask.
Because I am completely fucked
I will answer.
I am so fucked up inside
That I lash out and my only pleasure
is screwing complacent families.
You took all you had for granted.
That let me in to screw, fuck and destroy.
I am the other woman.

I am the other woman.
Like the bully in the playground,
I lash out to cause pain,
that is my default position.
I entice your husbands to my bed.
I feel I do not deserve happiness.
So, I take what I can get
The crumbs of attention from your table.
I dress it up and call it love.
But it only is a fuck and a screw
And I take momentary pleasure
In the pain I cause you.
I am the other woman.

I suck in your men.
I chew them up at will.
On your demand,
I regurgitate the remains
At your feet for you to
Administer the kiss of life
While I dance into the sunset
And you take all the blame.
I take no responsibility
For the chaos that I cause.
I am not the wife
Who picks up the pieces.
I am the other woman.

Facing fear

Facing fear!

Facing fear!

A funny thing happened about a week ago. I was supposed to be going from an afternoon appointment to an evening appointment, so I told Tom I would not be home. However, I felt a strange need to go home and I did so for perhaps 10 minutes and I used the “finding my phone” app to see where my husband was. I do not know where that need came from, but we had organized access to the app for me, about a year after the affair, so that I did not have to go through flashback nightmares if Tom was home late from work, non-contactable or whatever. It helped knowing I had the facility and as time went on I used it less and less. That I believe was the right thing to do as I needed to build up my trust in him again and if I was checking on him all the time, I was not doing that.

However, I also had to test my trust in myself and my own instincts. During the years leading up to the affair and during the affair, I had known something weird was going on and had made attempts to get through to him, but though I realized he was going through some sort of personal crisis, I could never get him to open up. For more than a year, it had occurred to me that Tom was having an affair and I kept telling myself that he would not do that . For over a year, I knew something awful was happening to Tom as he transformed into a nasty, unpleasant, secretive man and I felt more and more isolated in our marriage.

Eventually, I got so lonely that I had nothing to lose by openly confronting him, but even then I stepped back from facing my real fear which was the possible ending of our marriage of 27 years and a relationship of 36 years. When I first met Tom, I was only 17 and that very first evening when he shyly asked me out again, I knew it was something special. I knew this was the man for me. The dream became reality and we had a good life together in our new adopted home. Yes, for a few years, that dream became a nightmare, but I kept drawing back from any final demolition of the dream.

After that confrontation and the subsequent interrogation sessions, there seemed to be hope. We seemed to be making progress and there were moments of happiness. Tom just kept saying he wanted me to be happy and gradually I climbed closer and closer to that ideal. It was left that on the 2nd anniversary of D Day, we would tell each other what we wanted, but in the end, it seemed to be only me that made the commitment that I wanted to stay in the marriage. It was a hard decision as I knew that decision meant I had to let go of looking back at the pain I had endured and instead I had to look forward to a new marriage and a new future. In my heart, I did go through this process, but I do not think Tom did. He seemed to make no sort of commitment and even seemed to be taking my promise for granted somewhat and the occasion was not marked by him at all.

Still in the next few months, I kept my eyes looking to the future. One of the most frustrating things about recovery from an affair is that the partner who has the affair does not really seem to appreciate the struggle that the other partner went through. I happily admit, I tried to remedy that situation by control. I would give Tom articles to read, going to a counsellor, trying to build new memories such as weekends away were all controlled by me. Overnight, I became a control freak trying to micromanage the recovery of us both. The 2 year mark ended that. I realized that I can only look at myself. The only person I have control over is me, so the blog became more important to me as I explored some deep, deep feelings. I also gave up the right to try and control Tom’s feelings and the only thing I would give him to read is my blogs before I published them. It seemed right to give him the opportunity to discuss points that perhaps he disagreed with or even to give his viewpoint. However, the reality is he reads them, comments positively on them, but never challenges what I have said. Still it is validation for me which is very important for me. However, I believe that through these articles, Tom has actually come to realize that I am genuinely healing and becoming happier.

However, that created a whole new set of problems as suddenly the spotlight was off me and had moved to him and his happiness. This was an ostrich moment as he had to take his head out of the sand and I think that is what lead to that Thursday night when he thought I was not going to be home. He had run into Molly a few days before and though they only greeted each other, it seemed to awaken some need in him to see her again. As soon as I saw where he was, I went into panic mode. I got in my car thinking I have it wrong, that he could not be at her flat. But sure enough, when I got there, there was his car. I was shaking, though I did manage to send him a message that I would see him in court. I thought I had come so far, I thought I had managed to salvage the dream from the rubbish tip and now that seemed to be a fallacy. I went and picked up a friend that was coming to book club with me and told her. She had her own straying husband and so we listened to Tom’s message that he was in a pub down the road from her flat and my friend checked for me. He was not there. We left it and went on to our book club, but when I got home, we had a blazing argument and I faced hell that night. This was the end, or so I thought.

The next night, Tom and I were supposed to be going away for a weekend and I went reluctantly. We hardly spoke on the drive and tears ran down my cheeks. Later when we reached a beautiful little unspoiled seaside town, however, we did talk, possibly the most openly and honestly we had ever talked over a few bottles of red wine. Tom explained that he had only gone to Molly as he had felt the need to reach out to her and as he has not got her phone number, went to the flat to see her, but she was not there, so then he walked down to the pub. As implausible as it seems, I believed him and it ended up an incredibly bitter sweet weekend. He talked about needing space and I in my usual “take the bull by the horns” manner asked did he want a separation. Although he would never say it, it seems to have struck a chord with him and we have a provisional agreement for some sort of trial separation.

So I faced the loss of a dream yet again. I do not know what will happen. The ball is now firmly in Tom’s court and it is up to him what he wants to do with it. Strangely, I have come to peace with that. Yes, I want him to stay in the marriage, but I want him to want it out of his own free will. I took the space and time I needed to reach my decision. Tom needs to take the time and space he needs to make his decision, but it is difficult. I am not a patient person and it is made harder that it is left so open-ended as there is no definite timetable about when decisions will be made.

To paraphrase Sarah Meissen, “I had felt connected to Tom the moment I met him, as if a history had already been written about us, but the record was stowed in some heavenly place I could not visit. Eternity already knew us as a couple”. I have to trust that I was right then back when I was 17, I have to trust that I was right when I made my vows on our wedding day, I have to trust I was right when I made my decision on the second anniversary of our D Day and I have to trust I am right now as I try to give him the space he needs to make the decisions he needs to make.

Love-Hate

Ambivalence

Ambivalence in a simple dictionary is defined as having mixed feelings.

However, it is a word with a negative reputation, so if I recommended that we all need to develop ambivalence in our relationship with our straying husband, most people would be frightened. It is a word that is often confused with indifference, while in reality it means the complete opposite of indifference. It actually means caring, but that you are able to detach yourself from the situation and see both sides. It means feeling deeply, but having contradictory feelings such as love and hate towards the same person.

Feeling both love and hate towards Tom was an accurate description of a stage I went through after finding out about his affair. Initially, I was very sure that I loved him, much surer than he was, but as time went on and I moved past my anger, I became ambivalent. Anger is not an emotion of itself, it is something we do to stop ourselves feeling our real emotions. Being angry means that you are not feeling, acknowledging and working through your pain. So I believe that it is natural to become ambivalent in time as we move beyond that original protective anger and we should celebrate when we reach that stage. It means that we are prepared to stop worrying about our partner and striving more to rebuild the marriage. It means that we are now ready to look at and care for ourselves, to deal with our pain and to process our emotions.

It means that you have given up desperation and are ready to accept whatever outcome comes of the attempted marriage rebuilding. In some ways after discovering our partner’s affair, we are desperate for control. So we monitor his phone, his daily routine, his spending or whatever else that gives us a feeling of control over the situation. However, nobody likes being controlled and they will feel forced to tackle those controls head on. I remember an old boss used to say: “treat people responsibly, and they behave responsibly”. I have certainly found this to be true with children and generally my husband. We cannot control people and once you recognize that fact, you will develop ambivalence.

It means that you are ready to consider the fact that the marriage as you knew it is over. It means that you are prepared to explore a world where you are single again, or a world where you negotiate a new marriage agreement with your spouse or you enter a whole new contract which is not really a marriage nor is it a divorce either, but 2 adults working together to do what is best for their children. You are free of trying to control and manage the rebuilding process and that freedom gives you the opportunity to decide what you want, or the freedom to not make a decision until you want to. It gives you the freedom to become whoever you want to be. There is a saying that goes something like whatever pain you go through makes you stronger. But it can make you not only stronger, but gentler, more compassionate, less controlling, more tolerant, less judging, more empathetic and able to listen. Our pain can give us a lot of gifts, but first we have to recognize it and then explore it. We have to unwrap it, tear open the box and reach into every corner to see what we can receive.

Molly_Malone

A Eureka Moment

A EUREKA MOMENT

A EUREKA MOMENT

Can you remember the incredible power of a mummy’s kiss when your kids were little?
One of my daughters spent a lot of her childhood running around barefoot, so needless to say there were lots of sore toes. But in those days, I had incredible power. No matter how badly she stubbed it, a kiss from me was able to make it all better, the tears dried up and she was back outside. When adults hurt, who do they go to? Ideally, a husband and wife should go to each other to talk about the issue and work out a solution together. It is a discussion between two equal adults, each playing an equal role.
Things changed, however, when Tom started to go through some sort of mid life crisis brought on by a number of factors such as extreme stress at work, a falling libido, an increasing self-inflicted alienation from me and a physical attraction to a modern Molly Malone, cart and all, and just as I used to kiss my daughter’s toes to make all the pain go away, she promised to make it all better for him. She did momentarily make him feel better, but those moments came at a terrible cost. Each high came at the cost of ever deepening lows that eventually even threatened his sanity.
This was followed by my confrontation and Tom suddenly could not run away to Molly for a temporary fix. Instead, for the first time he had to face up to the enormity of what he had done.
As part of that facing up, we went to see a counsellor and she asked me about the responsibility I took for the chasm between us that Molly was able to take advantage of. We agreed that part of the problem was the fact that I attacked his self-esteem as I insisted that he went to see a doctor with regards to his libido issues. Whilst it seemed to satisfy the counsellor, I was never fully convinced that we had got to the bottom of the issue, so it is something that has kept nagging away at me. Recently, I have been reading an inspirational reading every day that specifically deals with co-dependence, but actually got me to think about general life issues, but in particular what role I played in Tom’s affair.
As I said previously, I had picked up the clues, but did not put them together and it has occurred to me that may have been a subconscious choice of mine. If we go back to my daughter and her sore toes. Imagine if she was really frustrated at something and keeps kicking it. If she keeps coming to me and I keep kissing her toes, I become complicit in her frustration. I am the adult, therefore, I must step back and work out what is wrong and help her work out her frustration.
Another example might be when your teenager over spends their allowance and you the parent keep bailing them out. The idea of giving a child an allowance is to teach them responsibility, how to budget, how to prioritize and how to think ahead, which are all wonderful life skills. If we as parents keep topping up and helping out, we actually make the situation worse than if there was no allowance and we paid out for every request. I want to know who was complicit in the decision to have the affair.
I will accept that I was complicit to some extent. I knew something really strange was happening and I did not investigate. I was complicit as over the weekend initially, I would make a plan to do something else in the afternoon, which helped me avoid feeling abandoned after he set off for gym and to visit her. I was complicit when I sub-consciously went to bed after him, so that I did not have to feel neglected at the lack of affection. I was complicit when Tom kept coming home later and later on a Friday evening when we traditionally went out for a family dinner, so I started cooking instead and we ate without him. His behavior and his manners became despicable. We would not accept that behavior from our children who are good at telling us when they are going to be home and that may be partially due to the wonderful example that Tom used to set, though that made his subsequent volte face even harder to understand.

However, the way I am most complicit is that I knew long before he even realised that she intended to go after him. In my heart of hearts, I knew what she was planning for over a year before it happened, but I said nothing to him. If I had said anything about it, he would have denied it, though at least I might have had the vicarious pleasure of being right when the truth came out.
Where do you cross the line between being complicit and actually enabling the wrongdoing? I suspect few times I may have crossed especially when I made excuses for him to the kids. I remember one conversation when one child moaned “I thought Sunday was our family day”. I made excuses and I did not take the issue up with Tom. I enabled his hurtful behavior. Because I did not hold him accountable for his neglect of the children, I enabled that neglect.
We can look at Tom and Molly’s behaviour and decide who was worst. But it is not an exam and there is no marking guidelines. Tom and I owed responsibility and accountability to our kids, but not Molly. Molly knew exactly what she was getting, an affair, a fuck buddy arrangement. She knew she would not see him in the evening, unless I had something on and then often she would have had to drop whatever else she was doing to see Tom. She also was lied to. When Tom told her he had fallen in love with her, he omitted to say that he still loves his wife. When he had sex with her, he did not mention the times he made love to me. When he said he would not leave the marriage because of his children, he did not explain about those invisible ties to me.
We all lied to ourselves and none of us stepped back and tried to understand the whole picture and what was going on exactly. Through musings like this, I believe I have learnt the most of the 3 of us. Initially I read a lot of books and articles about affairs, but more recently I have been reading about co-dependency which is not meant for infidelity, but for the families of alcoholics, drug addicts and other addictions. (Incidentally, I found the infidelity literature only useful for the first year of recovery.)
So in my search for healing, I have picking up help from all sorts of areas and it has helped me grow. One of the things I have always done to avoid been overly judgemental is think about the person as if they were my child and this is what I did with Molly. Molly is my age, early 50’s, but never mind. We can call it poetic license. Molly was married to an alcoholic for 15 plus years. The final straw was when they went into business together and lost everything. So all she could do was take her teenage daughter and start her life again. She got herself a job and provided for her daughter as so many mummies do and we have to admire her for that. However, not long after she started work she picked up another lame duck to nurture and care for. For over 7 years, they had an off and on again affair. Then eventually his wife threw down the gauntlet and that came to an end. So when Molly met my husband she was in desperate need of her next fix of nurturing. Anyone notice a pattern here? Before she was 50, she had wasted half her life on looking after men who were damaged at the time.
I can look at her as if she was my daughter and see the pattern. But she is not my daughter, so instead I will call her Molly Malone, a character from a nursery rhyme, who is immortalized on the streets of Dublin in a statue of a young Victorian girl, who is trapped for ever pushing her cart of cockles and mussels. The modern Molly is also trapped in a pattern of doomed relationships and each one adds more and more rocks to her overflowing cart. We can see as an adult that she should put down that cart, carefully unpack it and try to learn life lessons. But no, the modern Molly will carry on pushing her overladen cart from doomed relationship to doomed relationship and will ask herself “why does this always happen to me?” The answer, Molly, is that it will keep happening until you find the mental strength to step back and see the pattern for yourself.
I tried once to give Molly a chance to explain herself and for me to explain the damage her affair did to me, Tom and my family. It seemed important at the time to try to get her to see the harm in her choices, so that she never put another family through the same heartache. She did not give me the opportunity and perhaps that is just as well. What I would have said then to what I now understand are very different. People have to learn their own lessons and we have to give them the freedom they need to work out their own salvation.

The North Wind

In Europe, the North Wind is the harbinger of winter. It is the wind that brings the ice, snow and plunges Europe from autumn into winter.

A marriage in trouble is a marriage in winter. To quote from “The 4 Seasons of Marriage” by Gary Chapman

“A winter marriage is indeed cold, harsh, and bitter. Eventually, couples become detached emotionally and sometimes physically.”

And “In the winter season of marriage, communication fluctuates between silence and arguments. Critical words are spoken that further hurt the relationship. Verbal abuse sometimes leads to physical abuse. The sexual part of the marriage becomes a battlefield, and sexual unfaithfulness may strike the final blow to the marriage.”

One of the things that bothered me was how could I not have known. Why did I ignore all the signs of the affair? I realise now that I did see many of the signs and have very clear mental photographs of incidents that puzzled me. It was as if piece by piece, I was given parts of a huge puzzle, but I was never given the box lid that had a copy of the final picture. None of the pieces I received seemed to fit together. For example, one day I was shouted down as soon as I opened my mouth, on the next day, I was encouraged to spend the afternoon at a spa. So I just filed the pieces away until I got enough pieces to be able to make a start.

One of my children’s favorite nursery rhymes was “when the north wind doth blow”. I suppose it was the novel idea of a bird sitting with his head in underneath its wing, though possibly it was remembering the antics of the resident robin in the snow. The north wind was certainly blowing in our marriage and I like that little robin hunkered down. I retreated into survival mode.  When I tried to give an opinion and got shouted down, I did not respond. My priority was the children. I did what I could to protect them and the rest of the time I just closed down.

The robin knows how to survive the winter and his spirit despite the cold and inclement weather is catching. One day, I realized that I could not just stay up in the rafters of the barn for ever. I needed to come down and risk the weather to start living again. I took control of my life the night I confronted Tom about when he was leaving our marriage physically as he had already left it mentally. After that confrontation, I got a few more pieces of the puzzle and the trickle truth gave me another piece here and there.

By now, I perhaps have 33%, a third. But that is okay. I have enough to give me a broad outline that makes sense of all the little pieces that I filed away so carefully and I can let my imagination fill in the rest.

It is only today that I realise that I do not need to feel guilty for ignoring the signs and not acting sooner. I am not responsible for the actions of my husband that plunged our marriage into the midst of a snowstorm. I survived thanks to the barn that I retreated to and today, like the irrepressible little robin, I can emerge strong, though not unscathed.