Some recent random observations that either occurred to me or were voiced by others (and which I identified with):
Recent therapy session
My therapist and I discussed my realization that my husband may love me, but he loves himself more, even though my husband fondly thinks of himself as a deeply-in-love romantic. My therapist agreed. It’s not as gut-wrenching of an awareness for me as it once was, although it’s still sad.
I’m trying to blend that awareness with other elements of my life that I want to salvage, such as a marriage that my younger child can look at and feel secure in knowing that her parents are comfortable with each other and still together. I’m also 55 and I don’t want to start over on my own. It’s nice to have someone — even an unfaithful man who I can’t count on — to spend my time with and to help me (and to let me help him). And I don’t want to lose what is now 22 years of shared marital and family history. Who else is going to recall with a warm smile some stories of our children’s lives when they were little or get all the thousands of insider shared jokes and obscure references that you accumulate after more than two decades together?
I’m aware these are rationalizations for staying in a marriage that will never be as intimate, secure and strong as I want it to be. For now, though, this is where my head and heart are at.
We also talked about how I can’t trust my husband to follow through on things he says he will do (errands, repairs, bills, tasks, etc.), particularly within the time frame he promises. This has happened over and over again, so much that it’s a central theme for us. It leads to him feeling nagged, oppressed and unappreciated, and it leads to me feeling frustrated, let down and, frankly, unimportant to him. I need to have this talk with him: “I’m just going to have to be a big girl and realize that there are some things that are important to me that I have to do for myself. We have different priorities and views, and I need to rely on myself.”
I’m happier, if disillusioned, when I rely on myself. I am taking back my own power and not letting his weaknesses and failings dim my light.
Part of me is harshly criticizing myself for sustaining such wounds after his emotional affair. They were “just” talking and texting. (And trash-talking me. And making plans to meet up. And probably have sex eventually. He’s as rudderless in conducting an affair as he is in a marriage, I think.) He has prided himself on the fact that — so he says — they never actually inserted Tab A into Slot B. As if that’s some kind of consolation.
I understand intellectually that what he did was a huge betrayal anyway, sustained over about four years, diminishing the intimacy and connection in our marriage and shredding any respect he had for me. But that’s the coldly logical part of my being. Feelings are different, especially with my lifetime of trying to fit in, not be hated, and just be “enough.” More than ever, I am having to paddle to stay afloat, to shed my self-contempt and inner shame. I’m ashamed at myself because I have pain and emotional scars related to his emotional affair. I feel there is something wrong with me because I am not more resilient, more willing to slam the door and walk away. I know staying can be a strength. But this doesn’t feel like strength, for me. Not yet. It feels like the death of hope. The acceptance of a distant marriage. The confirmation of all my worst thought of myself.
New atheists and depression
Dropping out of religion may be correlated with major depressive disorder. (I heard this on a YouTube channel as a side comment in a larger discussion, and it hit me like a thunderbolt.) That never occurred to me, but it’s certainly true in my case. Over years, I came to accept that I no longer held Christian beliefs and was, in everything but name, an atheist. It was 2011 or early 2012 when I felt sure enough about my disbelief that I “came out.” I have had a long time to grieve losing the sense of security, social acceptance and hope that my former faith once provided to me, and I think that grieving is natural and, for me, it was necessary. I still feel an ache for what the Christian faith once meant to me, but I can’t fake that I still believe. I’m more at ease now that I acknowledge to myself what I truly believe and who I truly am.
I’m okay with being who I am: An apostate.
It was around that same time that my husband was in the middle of his affair, I was in a difficult work situation, we were sinking our financial ship and headed directly toward bankruptcy, and I was at one of the lowest, most depressed stretches of my life. I think that shedding my religion at the same time added to my pain and depression, and it was difficult for all these stresses to happen at once. It was a necessary and inevitable realization, if not a convenient one.
And I want to be clear: I don’t think atheism causes depression. I just think depression is a common part of changing one’s world view so profoundly, particularly when you’re giving up fond but unrealistic hopes.