I go through spurts where I can’t sleep. When I can’t, I do my best to not let my mind wander. Sometimes, I can’t help it.
Recently, I learned of a couple who found out one was cheating, actually the whole town found out that one was cheating. For so many reasons I cannot get them off of my mind. My heart breaks for that family, I have so much empathy to what they are going through and I don’t wish it on anyone. I see myself in them, their circumstances have a lot of similarities to mine. It is a challenge to not remember the pain of those early days of learning about the infidelity.
In the beginning, you are shocked. You can’t believe it actually happened, and you don’t want to believe it. You keep thinking it is all a really bad dream, but at the same time you know it is true and you are filled with anger and rage. You experience every emotion under the sun. Sometimes you want to fight for your marriage, and others you feel like it was long over before you found out. One minute you want to walk out, the next you don’t, you try to fix it or find ways to ease the pain. You also want to hurt them, you want to make them feel the pain like you are feeling. The next minute you blame yourself. The emotions are endless.
I keep thinking back to the kids, their kids, my kids, any kids who have experienced their parents in turmoil. Let me tell you, they know. They know exactly what is going on. You try to hide it, but they feel the tension, they feel the anger, they feel the hurt. You can bet, they are listening, trying to understand why there is a sudden change in their home. Why is mom crying all the time? Why is everyone so angry? Kids are so intuitive, they see the world a lot differently and so clearly. When I found out, it was during lock down. No where to escape, we were all trapped in the house. Trying to just make it through the day, day after day. My heart breaks when I think back to what my kid must have felt, and I feel guilty for putting them through so much pain. I was completely unable to control my emotions at times, and I hate that because of COVID they saw and felt so much more than they should have.
Those early days are a defining point in the marriage. How the infidelity is handled will tell you if that marriage will survive or not. Is there honesty? Is there remorse or just feeling upset that you got caught? Is the apology genuine? Everything I went through pointed to the marriage being over, and when the blame started of how it was all my fault I made my decision to move on, without him in my life.
This is where my mind wanders, and it isn’t about him and what he did to me. I wonder why I have never stood up for myself. Why was I okay with settling for less and being called crazy when I suspected something. I wonder how long was I in such deep denial. The truth is in the bottom of my heart I feel like it went on my entire marriage, just at different times it could be less or more.
I got thinking to months before we were married, 17 years ago. He had purchased a used truck for his new job. Several weeks later I was helping him clean it out, and I found a pair of panties in the backseat of the truck. I was dumbfounded, I just held them up and looked at him. I can vividly remember fighting off tears, just silent in disbelief. I can still hear the defensive tone in his voice as he tried to convince me that they must be from the previous owner, and yet mad at me that I would even question this and question his loyalty to me. All while he had a look of panic and guilt across his face. Eventually, I accepted this excuse as possible and moved on, but years later it still bothered me. I never believed the story and something just felt off, but I never brought it up again for fear of his anger. Somehow I found panties in his truck, and I ended up apologizing to him and feeling guilty. How does that make any sense?
A year or so later, when our second child was months old he attended a golf tournament. These used to get pretty wild at times, or so I was told. We lived in a small town about 15 minutes outside of the city where he attended this tournament. That night he arrived home completely intoxicated, which didn’t shock me. That night he rambled on about passing out in the cab and getting sick in the cab, but the next day was completely quiet about the actual golf tournament which I thought was odd. A couple days later, while doing laundry I found an empty condom wrapper in the pocket of the shorts he wore to the tournament. I called him immediately and asked him what the fuck I was looking at. He responded with a casual, oh you must have picked that up off the floor when you were picking up clothes. Or maybe our son put that empty wrapper in his pocket. I was furious, I cried for days and I called him out on his bullshit. Again, he kept calling me crazy, jealous and how are we ever going to survive if I don’t get my crazy under control. This couldn’t keep going on. I was far from over it, I felt deep down that something had happened. Again, I let it go. I quit talking to him about it, and I struggled to get over it. I told no one. Why did being called crazy and jealous set me off? Why would I do almost anything to avoid that title?
A couple of weeks later, a friend of mine went out in the city and happened to take a cab home. On the drive home the driver starts talking about a man he drove home a couple weeks ago, and the entire drive home he kept saying that his wife was going to kill him. That was all he said, over and over again. Since the town I lived in had a population of about 50, she knew exactly who it was. When I heard this story, I laughed it off but it seemed like it was more proof that something had actually happened. Again, I asked why I would kill him and he just responded with a simple I’m not sure, I was drunk and that was it. His cold attitude towards me hurt, it was so unfamiliar and I didn’t understand it. My heart sank to my feet. I felt worthless. Here I was at the beginning of my marriage, with two young children, no education and no job. I felt trapped. I just wanted to know if he was cheating, I didn’t feel that I would ever know the truth, but I can still remember blaming myself. He had convinced me that I was crazy and that I was jealous, even if he had cheated it was probably my fault. I truly believe that no one would love me, as he told me no one would because I was so crazy. So I began to shut down, just so I wouldn’t be the “crazy” wife. I hoped things would get better.
So many people would tell you that I am strong willed, determined and I take no bull shit. I am that person in so many situations, but with him I rarely was. He could hurt me and make me question my sanity so fast, I would always end up believing it was me. With him, I had no backbone. I learned to just shut up, and not question him. It kills me that I was setting that example for my children, showing my son that treating a woman like this is acceptable, and showing my daughters that it is okay to be treated like you are less of a human and not worthy of simple respect. The thing that upsets me, is I tried so hard to shrink myself enough so that he would just love me. I tried hard to be the person that wouldn’t set him off so we could just be happy. Over time I felt more and more miserable, I wasn’t authentic and me not being happy also angered him. I needed to be happier, so I slapped on a mask and tried to be that person too. I was miserable trying to be something that I wasn’t capable of being, someone that I never should have been asked to be. Someone who wasn’t allowed to feel, I just had to be what he needed me to be, always. I was literally becoming a mummy, numb and emotionless, I felt dead inside.
I worried for so long that I needed him to be a family. I needed him to survive. I needed him to feel whole. I don’t know if those were my thoughts, or if he put those beliefs in my mind. All I know now, is that what I needed was the exact opposite of what I had.