Today’s insight: My husband almost convinced me that his affair was all my fault for being depressed, angry and unavailable to him. I think that one of the reasons I stayed after D-Day* was that I felt guilty for being unlovable. (*If you don’t know, “D-Day” refers to Discovery Day, as when I discovered his affair. The affair recovery support network online has its own lingo.)
It didn’t dawn on me until much later that before and during his affair he didn’t see me as a person who cared – I was just a delivery vehicle of validation to him. Not a separate person with needs, flaws, and problems of my own. He seemed genuinely shocked at the depth of my pain, anger and sense of betrayal.
The impression my husband gave me after I stumbled over his four-year affair was that I am bossy, dominating, intimidating, angry, just plain mean, and also cold, withdrawn and uninterested in him.
The anger and withdrawal might be true, but it was only during the last year of the affair that I really directed my anger at him. He actually started the affair in 2009; it came to light in 2012.
My daughter ran away in 2008, turning down a big college scholarship to go live with a person she loved. It took a year before she admitted it was a mistake and we began mending our relationship. (The door was always open to her, whether she saw her mistake or not. But her pride took her a while to come back into touch with me.) I was so engulfed in grief, worry and anger that I performed poorly at work, and I was withdrawn or over-emoting at home. Meanwhile, my live-in mother’s dementia was rapidly escalating.
I felt overwhelmed and asked my husband to take over bill payment and our financial management because I just couldn’t deal with it. I began being diagnosed with several serious chronic medical conditions. Then our financial picture shattered in 2009 when I had a week or so of hospitalization for a kidney infection, pneumonia, ovarian cyst and how my kidneys were shutting down. We’ve always lived paycheck to paycheck, so we didn’t have any elasticity to absorb this.
My husband began taking out payday loan after loan. Eventually we got behind on our mortgage by FOUR MONTHS. I found this out when I went to cosign a loan for my older daughter to buy a car. I went home to have a furious fight with my husband. He said he couldn’t get me to listen; I said he didn’t try very hard to get my attention. (He’s pretty tentative and vague.)
So I had many pressures.
I spent a *lot* of time online, because I had the idea that I could make blogging a career. (I wanted to do anything other than continue working in an increasingly toxic work environment.) Often, I would fall asleep downstairs on the sofa with my laptop and miss heading up to bed with my husband.
I became seriously clinically depressed, although I didn’t identify that at the time. I felt desperate, drowning and inadequate.
He took my withdrawal as abandonment of him instead of getting mental health help for me or even having a frank conversation with me. So he let a Facebook flirtation with an old girlfriend build up into multiple private conversations with her daily over four years. It grew into a full-blown emotional affair that he says was on the brink of being consummated when I found out. (I actually think they did sleep together, despite what he says. He had some new tricks in his bag when we next slept with each other.)
His only “defense” was, “I just thought you were done with me” and “Do you know how many nights I tried to get you to come upstairs with me instead of you sleeping on the sofa?!”
So I felt unloved and unlovable. Shock, grief and anger latched on, sitting on me like a vulture on roadkill, picking away all the good parts and leaving just bones behind.
The vultures still nibble on my bones occasionally.