My husband is involved with another woman.
A sentence I never in my life thought I would be writing, much less that it would be the truth about my marriage. But it is. He is out with her tonight, as I write. While we live in the same house, trying to unravel our life together. While our children played and waited for dinner this evening and the afternoon sun glowed so beautifully outside and i thought we could have a barbecue and the kids would love ice-cream, he left. To go to her.
They met at work. The story as old as the hills .... they started talking, became friends .... she confided the details of her difficult divorce, he listened. He told her his marriage was dissolving also (because suddenly that seemed true), and that he was not happy. Their friendship grew ... little by little. And then one day it was a drink after work and then one drink became three. White wine and Zucchini sticks. And then they were dating, a proper courtship. And so began their affair. Late night calls and early morning texts. Hiding his phone and carrying it everywhere with him. He lied and lied and lied again, to make room in his life for this new chapter, to fit her in. He was out with friends, he said. He had to work late. He was staying over in the City. For work.
I knew. But I had no proof. Only the stab in my gut and the gnawing certainty that there was someone else. I had to find out the hard way, by searching and digging and using my intuition. And every step a painful discovery that the marriage I believed to be strong enough to weather any storm, was ending.
The past months have been a time of deep grief and confusion ... of feeling angry and desperate, quite and despairing. My head and heart in constant warfare, each looking for proof to show they are right. Each kindness a reminder of what we had, each fight another nail in the coffin. I have howled and sobbed and lain motionless for hours. I have sat and let my thoughts wander. I have walked and run and thrown paint and written and emailed and texted and called .... and screamed. And whispered. And thrown things and pushed and pushed and pushed. And lit candles to sit vigil in the night, with my memories.
Somehow, 18 years ended here. Like this. With me dismantling our wedding album tonight, while he is out. Tearing up the photos because the memories are too painful. Saving a few - for the children, so they know there was love there, once upon a time. And that I too believed in happy endings and fairy tale ever afters.
Every marriage is different - a complex, multi-layered, beautiful living thing ... it has to be watered and pruned and given attention to, and maybe sometimes life gets busy and we get wrapped up in the day to day ... the juggling of household and children and money and work and obligations and other people's demands and not enough free time .... and your needs and my needs ..... and what about ours.
We forget to water. The weeds start to grow.
I thought the plant was still alive, it would flourish again. It was just struggling a bit - maybe it needed more light, less water. He decided the plant had died, and no amount of love or care would bring it back to life again. There was no longer any point in trying. For him.
I have had time to think about my role in how this came to be ... the things i said and did not say, the years and months of habits that built up and the hurt that was caused. From both sides. We have talked more in the past months than in the past years, and that has been painful to realize. But important for closure. We have tried to understand each other but at the bottom of it all, the fact remains that he has moved on ... and with somebody else.
To those of your reading who feel overwhelmed in your relationship - who feel there is no way to connect, to reach out .... that it's easier to start again, to find someone new, to leave that door open instead of drawing a sacred boundary around your partner and yourself ... deal with your relationship first. I beg you. Before you let someone else in. Talk to your partner, no matter how difficult it seems. Tell them how you are feeling, allow yourself to be vulnerable, even if there is no guarantee they will understand. Even if you think it is over. Especially if you think it is over. Try for this not to be an angry conversation - for it not to be a time of accusations and a list of wrongs and hurts. Find a safe place to talk. Just start. Light some candles and sit quietly ... under the stars at midnight, in bed with your Hello Kitty pajamas on. On the couch, on a beach, walking. Find a way to tell each other how you feel. Write the words if you cannot speak. Sing them, paint them, weave them. It might not be too late. It might just be that all the words disappeared along the way and it became easier not to speak, not to be seen, not to be hurt. And so the years went by and the hurt built up until the layers became firm, trodden down each day, so hard to break through. But it's worth trying. It's always worth trying just one more time.
In all of this, my faith in the world and in love and marriage have truly shattered. I trusted him not to hurt me. I trusted that he meant it when he said till death us do part. This is a death indeed, but not the one we meant in our vows. I see the world differently. Him differently. Our entire marriage differently. Myself differently. This has changed me.
In so many articles I read as I was searching for answers, it struck me how people who cheat could always justify their choices. It's OK to start an affair with someone who is married because it's his / her decision, their marriage must be bad, their partner a nightmare who doesn't understand / appreciate / see / love them anymore. Pick your adjective, every excuse exists. Or it just happened. Just like that. And so of course, one must act. The new lover / partner is not at fault, in their own eyes - they are not forcing the married partner to do anything. The one who is married can justify his / her dalliances in a million different ways. They were unhappy. Their marriage no longer met their needs. They needed a change. Midlife. A new start. Bored, stifled, not understood. Not seen. Not wanted. Life got too hard. They just wanted some fun, while staying in their marriage until their children were grown.
Marriage is hard. It is up and down and good patches and bad patches so bad you feel you might end up an alcoholic or pack a bag at midnight and hit the road speeding, desperate to be anywhere but here.
Marriage is also beautiful and stormy and tender and it's meant to hold us, to be a harbor and an anchor and a safe place. I think our culture has become too casual with marriage, with lifelong vows. We marry because we like the idea of it, but the actual reality - the difficult part of working through the rough patches .... not so much. It's easier just to give up, start new, find someone else. When the universe presents a different option, don't we have a right to find out happiness .... to live life to the full, we say ? We are entitled to happiness, we tell ourselves. We forget about the hard work and sacrifice that often go hand in hand with lifelong commitment. And the rewards to be gained by staying. Sometimes.
Don't we owe it to our partners and children to really try ? To fight for something deeper and more meaningful, to allow for the love that truly holds and mends and really knows another person, their shadows and their light ? Don't we owe it to ourselves not to give up just when we are tempted, but to remember that building a life and a family takes self sacrifice sometimes ..... we have to draw a circle tight around our marriages, and keep that line secure - no one should cross over.
It seems to me that in the world around me, people have become entitled and demanding. They want, and so they take. They help themselves, even if that person belongs to someone else. They treat marriage vows as if they are casual promises, able to be broken anytime it's convenient. I don't want to be part of that world ... where promises are taken lightly, where families are destroyed for selfish pleasure. Where self restraint and integrity are no longer valued. I believe we do all deserve happiness, and I also believe that not all marriages last and sometimes it is for the better. But I also believe in honesty, and in communication and in openness.
I know from personal experience, watching friends and colleagues around me, that sometimes marriages truly are not right and no one is happy and it's best to part ways ... and I have seen new marriages bring real happiness and a wonderful new life together. I know it's not always clear cut and simple. We're messy complicated contradictory beings. We're human. We change. We fall in love anew. I think what I am struggling with is the ease with which i see marriages cast off .... the ease and self-justification with which marriages and families are destroyed. If it really is time to let go, then let it be done kindly and honestly ... let that relationship be resolved with respect for a life shared and built together. Let there be compassion, even if love has died.
An ending before a beginning.
If it's going to happen, let it be done cleanly.
But life is messy. People want what they want. This is the stuff of music and art. It gets complicated.
I wish marriages could be ended before new relationships began. I wish new relationships didn't end marriages. I wish there were no affairs and nobody thinking they had a right to tempt someone out of their marriage. i wish married men and women could not be tempted, not until they had resolved the issues making them want to look outside their marriage in the first place.
But wishes are dandelion whispers blown on the wind, and not all wishes come true.
And so here we are. Living under the same roof because needs must, for now. And because of two beautiful children who don't understand what is happening, not understanding why we can't just make up. Here we are. Fighting and crying and talking and at odds with each other and grieving. Here I am, watching him leave, again and again. Here we are, rattling around the home that was meant to be our forever ... and now it's a reminder of where everything fell apart.
Death by a thousand paper cuts.
Here I am - learning to keep getting up, no matter how many times I am knocked to the ground. Here I am, grateful for my friends and family. Grateful for the sisters that have held me up and walked this journey by my side. Here I am, grateful for children and how the busyness of life can sometimes make me forget. Just for a moment. Here I am, grateful for time to grieve and lament and allow the sorrow to flood me. Here I am, grateful for quiet nights with a dark blue sky and the moon shining through. Here I am, grateful for time healing. For learning to listen to my own voice again. For remembering who I am. For my sense of humor. Here i am, grateful for life's journey, even though this detour took the wind out of my sails and nearly killed me. Here I am, grateful for new beginnings and endings and all the life that happens in between.
Here I am, grateful for my memories. Grateful that there was love. Friendship. Laughter. Here I am, still holding on too tightly, but slowly learning the necessity of finally letting go.