Post-affair: Pain, obsession and distance

Photo from Flickr.com; some rights reserved.

Photo from Flickr.com; some rights reserved.

There was one time, just a few weeks after I found out about my husband’s affair and when I was still in shock, I got obsessed with finding out about the affair. I found out that I could search our old cellphone records and see the times and dates they texted each other.

That period of obsession only lasted a few weeks for me, and I’m told that it’s an entirely normal reaction to horrific stress and shock. It just haunted me to NOT KNOW.

They had texted each other 101 times in the two hours before I walked upstairs, plopped down on the bed and picked up his phone, thinking it was mine. (We had identical phones, and his was unlocked, face up, on my side of the bed.) He was in the bathroom when he heard my shriek upon reading a few of their sexts. That was July 22, 2012, on a Sunday night.

I never went to sleep, and he stayed downstairs that night. I got up the next morning and we talked briefly, and I went to work. I never missed a day for an entire month after that, but I was a zombie.

It was about three weeks into the affair obsession when I was methodically going through the phone records. I went back 18 months. I saw how their interactions were increasing. How they kept up even when we traveled. How he texted her on my birthday one year, and doubled the number of texts to her on my birthday the following year.

Also on our wedding anniversary. Two years in a row.

It was crazymaking to think of the family times and couple times that were special to me that were apparently not so special to him. Every holiday, weekend date or quiet supper for two suddenly had a third person present.

That data about the texting, though … it was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. Until then, I had been pretty frozen in my pain. But that day I came home pulling off my earrings and kicking off my shoes. I think he had been waiting for that day to come, even though I didn’t know I would get to that point.

He had a sick “Oh, shit, here it comes” look on his face. I tried to slap him but he grabbed my hands. Then I tried to kick or knee him in the nuts, but he pulled me in too close for that. So I headbutted him — headbutted him twice on the nose and then the cheek, hard enough for him to see stars, he told me later. And when he pulled me in even closer to protect himself, I actually bit his arm, like a feral animal. I bit his bicep through his shirt. I bit it like I was trying to pull meat off the bone.

He had a black bruise the size of a large apple on that arm by the next day.

Even with that injury, he saw that I was hurt and crying, and he didn’t try to hurt me physically — just keep me at a safe distance. And I stopped myself, appalled at what I’d just done.

There were times it was just unbearable to know that my beloved husband — the guy I’d always thought of as “too good to be true” — the guy my friends always asked about, “Hey, does he have a brother?” — had been unfaithful.

That was one of those days when I would have happily fallen down dead just so I didn’t have to hurt to that degree anymore.

So flash forward almost three years to a day late in this past summer. We’ve been limping along, healing in some ways and ignoring our problems in others. I was having one of my periodic sad moments and starting to cry as I told him about something that triggered memories of the affair for me. He got very tight-lipped and defensive, and he said something about when was this going to stop.

Later on, in the same conversation, he said, “You know, at least I’ve never bitten you.”

I was appalled that he had the brass balls to complain about my angry reaction to him, when he had done something so much worse. And I said, “You’re right, I shouldn’t have done that. I was hurt, but it’s no excuse. I wish I felt sorrier for that than I do. But let me tell you something from my point of view if we’re going to point fingers: At least I’ve never had an affair. Not for a minute, not for an hour, not for a day, month, year, or — like you — three years. Do you really think I never had the opportunity? That you were the only one? And I didn’t. But you did.”

That is the only time I have **ever** (as he put it) “thrown it up to him” that he’d had an affair. Yes, I’ve argued and cried and gotten blue about it, but I didn’t throw a “Cheaters” T-shirt at him or sew any scarlet letters on the front of his shirts.

He has had it EASY with me, in comparison to some stories I’ve heard of other grief-stricken women with their cheating spouses.

So that’s why today — Sept. 28, 2015 — came as such an ugly shock to me. We were having one of those increasingly rare tearful conversations about our marriage and if we’ll ever recover, and he mentioned that he was afraid that I would always be able to pull the affair out of my hip pocket and slam it down on the table like a trump card.

That concept … it just took my breath away. Does he *really* see it as so adversarial between us? If so, why am I even trying?

I reminded him that I’d only tossed the “cheater” label into his face that once, in three years, and then only after he’d bitched about how I’d bitten him.

I’m ashamed of my physical assault. I was beyond my limits of what I could endure that day. But I’m ashamed of that.

But I’m more ashamed of him. For what he did to our marriage. For how he hurt and scarred me. For how he’s trying to justify himself, even now, even three years after his affair.

I knew he was a weak man when I married him. I just didn’t admit to myself HOW weak. I’m ashamed of myself for loving him anyway.

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