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Wednesday
Jul222009

Infidelity - An Interview

There was no gaping hole in the business of life for the affair to slip into. I did not notice that we had fallen out of love. In fact, after the smoke cleared and we were both still alive, my husband (for he was still my husband) said he never stopped loving me.The two seemed completely incongruous to me... an affair, and a marriage that still included love in its description. Yet somehow those two could apparently coexist in the heart of my husband without tearing him apart.

I began to notice that he was gone more than usual, traveling for work and staying out late. One day I surprised him by asking if he was having an affair. He surprised me by saying yes.

Physically, it felt like a sharp punch in the gut, which I could have endured if it only happened once. But it happened every day, when I woke up and remembered that it was still true. My husband was in love with someone else. He was sleeping with her, traveling with her, emailing her, trusting her.

Part of me knew he felt he could not help it that it was inevitable. Was that real? Where does freedom of choice go when an addiction like adultery grabs hold of us and grips like a bulldog? He said he wanted to rescue her, that he felt like he needed to protect her from something. My imagination ripped into me.... if only I were more beautiful, if only I kept a better home, if only I were nicer. But someone with more experience with adultery than me told me that it wouldn't matter at all. Trying to shield your marriage from adultery with beauty and flowers on the table was like trying to stop a hurricane with cardboard It was not about me or how I looked. Those words were reassuring, but part of me couldn't quite let go of blaming myself.

I felt like I had to see the other woman, the one who had snatched my husband away. Her presence loomed over me like a shadow, dimming everything that used to bring me joy. It was a relief to see her and want to smile because she was not very pretty. She was clueless, shallow and unaware of what she was destroying. She was very defensive and walked away after a few minutes.

Peter Rhodes had made a video about adultery that I knew about. I called and asked him for it. Talking to him was the lifeline that kept me from floating out to sea completely. He told me that my husband had to move out. Could I say that? Was I in a position to make any demands at all? Other people told me I should refuse to sleep with my husband, that it was insane to let him live in both worlds. But I felt like it was the only bridge he had to come back to me on. It was one way we were still us, and I did not turn him away. If there really was his soul in his seed, I wanted every drop I could get.

I was living a double life... one that pretended that we were peachy, and the part that hid in the closet at work and sobbed. I wrestled with whether to tell our children. They deserved to know, didn''t they? A counselor told me that they did not even want to know about our problems. My husband finally moved in with his girlfriend and I resolved to tell them... after Christmas. But then she dumped him and it all came crashing down even lower than sea level.

Peter was strong with me, which was handy because I was not strong. I had never imagined that this could happen to me, and there was no road map for this desert that I could find. My husband had been traded in for a facsimile of the man I married. What happened to his brain? Where were his ideals? He said things to justify what he was doing like, "The children will get over it."

How could he risk losing everything.... our marriage, our children, our family?

He would hold my hand while I wept, but he was on the other side of a wall and could not see what his actions were doing to us.

Because I was trying to resist destroying his reputation, in the shred of hope that our marriage might survive this, I had few people I could talk to. But the Lord sent me some that I dared to trust, and they were my shield form the buffeting winds. They could still point up and walk a straight line, even if I couldn't.

People had opinions about why I stayed with him. Yet it never felt right to leave. He was still my guy, When I was with him, I was home, even though home was on the bow of a rocking ship. He was the one I laughed with, the one I made love to. There was no one else. Even if he was broken, he was all I had.

When she broke up with him, he called and wanted to come home. He felt like he did not deserve to be with me, but I felt compassion for him. He was going through a hard time and he needed somewhere to rest. I let him sleep downstairs. He was ashamed, and I wondered if he was suicidal. Yet there was no victory... he was home by default not because he had chosen me over her. It was not a fresh beginning, but a sliding into the old shoes that still waited under the dresser.

We began talking to a counselor, and waded through the backlash of the past year. We talked, and listened. The counselor said that he needed to go into rehab for ten days, but that felt as impossible as finding the rewind button on our life.

Time passed and we began to heal. I wasn't myself for at least a year, though I went to work and made dinner. Trust began to grow, slowly like the jack pines opening after a wildfire blackens the hill. We made a list of what made us fall in love with each other. The flood gates opened and we talked more, cried more.

Today we do a lot of laughing. We make a point to go on a trip together every year, somewhere new and special.

It hurts that he never said he was sorry. It wouldn't take away the pain but I think it would put it in a box with a lid, that I could close when I needed relief from the throbbing ache.

I am stronger than I was. I am tougher. I miss being soft, being vulnerable. But perhaps this is part of my journey too.

God never forgot me, even when I was so lost I could not find my way. He sent me human beings, when I was crawling out of the hole I had fallen into. There were times I knew I had to go to church, had to talk to a minister, had to find a friend who was less scared of my future than I was.

It has been awhile. I have no guarantees that it will never happen again. Yet I still hope to be married to him in ten years. He is the one I promised to love forever, and being true to my own covenant may be the only thing I am sure of.