Familiar Stranger -Forever?

I often look at my H and feel he is a very familiar stranger. I guess the fact that I thought I knew him so well prior to his cheating was more fairytale I had made up for myself than fact. There was a mix of innocence and ignorance in my thinking. There is so much more to him than I knew, more to his past, his childhood trauma, more to the way he handles things and clearly more to his decision-making when it comes to right and wrong, more to what goes on in his head daily than he is sharing with me. I guess the biggest question I have now is will I ever know him? Will I ever really love him in the same way again and will I ever stop being resentful and mistrustful of him.

In some ways, since the truth has come out, I know more about him. Hopefully all the parts of him that had been hidden have now been revealed. I am now aware of how his childhood has shaped his ideas, behaviours, lack of communication, triggers and difficulty with emotion. This awareness gives me the strength to push forward and not give up but the damage done is deep to both of us.

We recently went on a warm vacation for the first time in 13 years. Our trip, an attempt to re-connect, to start actually living rather than just getting shit done and dealing with daily life. For the most part we travel well together. We discovered new things, did new activities and over all enjoyed the trip.  There were a few triggers during the trip that caused me to mist up privately a few times but overall it was great to get away. I still find myself wondering if I will ever let my walls down. While it was good to be around each other 24/7 for ten days, re-connection was not completely there. Physical affection is still stunted, approached with trepidation and pretty much the elephant in the room that is not discussed. It is just too damn painful. I feel like we are still very much broken but have started the process to glue it all back together. I am not completely comfortable around him. It has been five months since I found out about, well, …his DISGUSTING behaviour during the last four years of our marriage and I am still pissed, and truthfully very guarded. I look at him often and ask myself a series of questions

  1. Can I still love him, not care for him as a person or as my partner of the last 15 years but as my husband?
  2. Will I ever allow myself to love him again with abandon or is how I feel now as good as it gets and is that good enough?
  3. Will there ever be a time that I am trigger free, anger free, resentment free..am I strong enough to do that?
  4. Are we just limping along trying to avoid the inevitable?
  5. Will I ever feel passion for him rather than hurt and disgust at what he has done?

H is doing what he can to make amends, acts of kindness and consideration, being more tender in how he deals with me (although when he is gruff it triggers me back to the horrid treatment I received when he was cheating), we are still in therapy, we are trying to learn how to open up and communicate which is tough.  The initial flurry of reading affair books every night, and talking through every trigger, event and feeling has subsided. I still cannot bring myself to be intimate, I am still thinking about what he has done and with whom, not as constant as before…but it is still there often. My father has been diagnosed as terminal, and I am grateful H is here to help, and comfort me in a situation where I fear I will be swallowed up with grief I cannot survive. With the looming issue of my father, much of the day-to-day worry about my marriage is overshadowed, on the back burner, but it’s still there, and I still have to give it the proper attention.

During our vacation, my H lost his wedding band in the ocean.  When he discovered that he had lost his ring he was very very upset, for several hours….at first I was taken aback honestly and I wondered why was he upset? Why now? Was it because he lost an item of  monetary value? To me it has become just a piece of jewelry. I asked him why he was so upset and he lamented it was because it was his “wedding” ring. He had disrespected his ring and what it stood for so many times. How many times had he left it home sitting on the sink? How many times had he stashed it in his truck or in his pocket when he was cheating? How many times had he worn it in the company of someone he was screwing behind my back?  And then I was sad, that the symbol of our once bright future, had been lost. The ring which was given with so much love, in front of family and friends was gone. Is it an omen? To me, it feels like perhaps this ring, this symbol of fidelity just had to leave…it needed to be lost, like the fidelity that was promised the day he put it on. To me it had become another trigger, a reminder of how he had failed me and us.

We have been shopping for his new ring and he is enthusiastic about its replacement but the outing was bittersweet. We are still here, in the face of what life has thrown at us, that is the sweet and of course in stark contrast the bitter, remembering the first time we went ring shopping full of love and excitement, and now it is with trepidation about our future and what it holds. I have had very mixed emotions about his ring. Mixed emotions about what that means. If I were in a very positive place I would see it as a fresh start, and a new promise. I am afraid to put stock into those good thoughts, afraid to set myself up for future hurt and failure. Its like people who have another child to save a failing marriage, or people who renew their vows because they have become so unhappy they want to take a mulligan and start over. These seem like last-ditch attempts that only foreshadow a bad ending….

One by one the physical items which trigger me have gone. His truck was sold so I did not have to sit in a vehicle that he has screwed another woman in. His phone, that he had used to communicate with the others has been replaced, and now his ring…gone. The only thing that cannot easily be replaced is our cottage. It was our honeymoon spot, our first big purchase together, where we hosted his parents, had Christmas for 12 years, our happy place He soiled by bringing pathetic Holly into it for one night and I still struggle with it. I still refuse to go there. It bothers him, and prevents us from spending time in his favorite winter getaway. I am  unapologetic. These worldly goods gone, which should mean so little really, but to be honest, they have meaning, making these changes does salve my wounds some.

I think us betrayed that decide to stay are hard on ourselves. We put pressure to “decide” go or stay. We feel we are failing when we cannot get hold of our thoughts and emotions. We measure ourselves to some unwritten schedule “I should be farther along by month X” I know I do that to myself. I wonder if I am trying hard enough to forgive. Am I doing the right things to push past this? So many questions…and then the realization that I did not ask or sign up to be in this shit storm, and the anger wells up again. I am aware the duration is shorter and the incidence is less.

He is familiar, the look of him, his mannerisms, what he likes to eat, watch on tv. Can I reconcile what I knew of him to what I know of him now, incorporate the parts that have led us to where we are? I am supposed to take the good with the bad…this I know, easy to say in the early throes of first love, harder when actually put to the test. He says he is that guy I have known all along…that the good I saw is still there. I do believe that, I  just didn’t know the sick parts…..loving those is going to take some work.


4 thoughts on “Familiar Stranger -Forever?

  1. I feel like I could have written so much of this post. Learning about who H really has been, not the guy I thought I married but who he really was, has been like getting to know a stranger. It’s still hard to accept.

    I want to love H, I want to be in love with H. I know he is finally making the changes we both needed him to make. But he’s not who I thought he was. Is it going to be enough? And honestly I’m not the person I once thought I was, either. I was weak, in denial, looking the other way, when I believed I was independent and strong. I struggle with my own thoughts and behaviors now. He’s doing better. Am I able to do the work to be the partner he needs? Do I even want to? I am often short with him about things I shouldn’t be – and then I feel bad. I had hoped for more certainty once he finally made the decision to stick with us. But it’s all up to me. I just don’t know.
    ☀️

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  2. Sunshine, I am glad my words resonate….us betrayed are very similar, as much as our stories may vary. I don’t think you should ever label yourself as weak. Adultery is a tricky business, you believe with all your might that your H is honest, trustworthy, and steadfast (if you didn’t why would you get married). Understand that if you do not cheat, then it will not be on your radar. If it is not on your radar, how will you know it when you see it. Sure it is easy to look back and connect the dots and see the red flags…with hindsight, but you must never blame yourself for missing them, that my dear is not weakness.

    As for the nagging questions, I have them too, I think it goes along with the territory. Don’t force yourself to find answers, they will come. Listen to your heart and soul..it will tell you which way you should go. There is no time limit here. The fact that you are staying and trying to love someone that has hurt you so deeply should quell your questions about being enough..good enough. If he strays again, it will again, not have anything to do with you being enough. It is his issue…

    I am not often short with my H but when issues arise from the betrayal, I feel bad bringing them up. I have learned not to stew as long, I may not tell him at the moment the feeling arrives but I try to tell him if the feelings persist otherwise I blow. I suspect if you could express your feelings…the shortness may subside provided he is willing to hear them and help you with them. I hope that is the case.

    You are independent and strong…its probably just mired down in crap you did not order up….find it again…its there:)

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  3. I so agree with you. Sometimes I feel like we put so much pressure on ourselves. It seems like the times when I am able to feel better about my husband quickly lead to my feeling bad about myself for staying. After my husband’s first affair, it took years and years to feel “normal” again, but I did. I wonder now if I have enough years left to get to a place of anything resembling normalcy. Unlike you, we sold our cottage and now I wonder if that was the right thing to do. I miss it so much, and my kids miss it, but I doubt I would have enjoyed being there with the memories of his affair everywhere. We are coming up on the first anniversary of D-Day, our 30th wedding anniversary and we just passed the 26-year anniversary of his first affair. Sometimes it is all overwhelming, but reading the similar stories of other women certainly does help. Because no one else really understands like those who have been there. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Hi Letting Go

      Thanks for sharing your views, I agree no one really understands like those that have walked in our shoes. I know about missing the cottage. I had thought many times about selling and it is still a thought. I have not gone up since August when I found out he had brought her there. We do have another cottage, its a long story but it is in my name only. We use that, however D day for me was in August on the day before our wedding anniversary, as well, we separated the first time, that same week and I spent my anniversary of 2013 with my friends and family coming up to spend my anniversary week with me while he was seeing others, and being horrible to me. The damage is very deep and each day I work at trying to keep the bad thoughts at bay and trying to focus on the good ones. Work in progress. Speaking with others like yourself is also a huge help. Keep the faith, hopefully you can find some peace.Staying is harder than leaving in many ways…trying to find comfort in the person that let you down is so difficult but some have been able to get past this…so we all keep trying.

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