Cheating Hearts, Cheating Minds

an angry woman - the off parentI don’t think I ever caught her cheating on me. I’m going to assume that she told me the truth about things when confronted. But, without taking her clothes off, there was a moment, a very painful moment, that I can now see was really an affair. It didn’t wreck our marriage, but it put a huge hole in my trust. And when things got difficult it was occasionally hard for me to not imagine she was seeing him, or someone, for lunch again.

After all, she was in a relationship when we ran into each other again. And she took some lunches and even a date with me before calling it off with me, so she could go figure if she was IN or OUT with the other guy.

IF I had owned that this behavior was a problem, I MIGHT have avoided the marriage and divorce all together. That of course, is not the way things worked out. She called me about six weeks after asking for a “moment of silence” and simply said, “We’re done.” My first question, “What are you doing tonight? Wanna go over to a friend’s and watch a movie with us?” “Sure.” Swoon. Remove brain from cranium and move to other head. Again, water under the bridge, but looking back, to uncover my mistakes, this was the biggest one. IF she was willing to have lunches with ME, while still living with HIM… (I didn’t really know the status of their relationship at the time.) I just don’t think that was very CLEAR. For the other guy or me.

Jump cut about 4 years later and we’re married with a child in the crib. Wow. A wonderful life.

It was from a younger man, who she had recently started working with as part of a freelance team. He was thanking her for sharing the local library with him as a place for coffee and respite within our community.

And then we were unjustly interrupted, like everyone else, by the prosperity ending 911 tragedy. The comfy lifestyle and happy home became a source of stress and “oh my goodness.” And unfortunately, my self-employment viability came crashing to the ground as my clients all FROZE all business. I struggled. I got depressed. I got on medication. I hated life. I loved my wife and kid. But I was suddenly not sure how I was going to support them or the lifestyle I had hoped to accomplish at this point in my life.

So we soldiered along and the second child was born into this rough world. We got what we wanted, a boy AND a girl. Happy bouncing babies. Not so happy and bouncing parents.

One day, during this “rough patch” I came home and pulled up a browser on her computer. We always used whatever computer was on the desk at the time. (this was before universal wifi everywhere) And her gmail account was open. Nonchalantly, I noticed some spam in her inbox, and as I was the gatekeeper, I clicked on one of the spammy messages.

It was not spam.

It was from a younger man, who she had recently started working with as part of a freelance team. He was thanking her for sharing the local library with him as a place for coffee and respite within our community. He was talking to her about “dealing with your husband’s depression” and “let’s do it again soon.”

In my fragile mental state I almost cracked. I can see how this kind of thing would make people go mad. At that point I was not all that comfortable with my anger, so I turned it inward and go sad. And fat. And what hope I had was lost to my wrong-headed fantasies about their tryst.

I did tell her and she apologized and said she saw how this would hurt me and that she would stop. She claimed to be unaware of how it “might have affected me” since she was innocent of any real transgression, but she would abide by my wishes and not see this guy for lunches any more. And she would tell him as well.

I am getting clearer and clearer in my request for a relationship.  And ultimately I am attempting to learn about my heart, my communication styles, and my needs.

But the wound was slow to heal for me. She seemed to move right along, except when I would bring it up in counseling. But even then, it wasn’t anything all that important, other than how I perceived it. She said. I’m certain she understood how it hurt me, as I expressed this fairly well. But she was unwilling to really dig into what had made her share intimate details of our lives with a stranger. How she would turn to him for comfort rather than explore the pain with me. We were already in therapy. What was she doing with THAT time?

I took screenshots of all of the messages and put them away somewhere. But later, as I was purging my own pain and guilt, I deleted them. I would not want to look back on them now. But this experience does allow me to reflect on several things.

  1. My ex-y was having honesty issues, even with me, when we met.
  2. While she wasn’t very expressive of her emotions, they did exist.
  3. The warning flare around her intention in going to lunch with me while living with another man, should have been a deal killer. But she was/is very beautiful. I fell for her charms and did not listen to the concerns I should have been hearing.

It reminds me a little bit of the woman, who more recently stopped responding with positive reinforcements when I asked her to do things. Truth is, she liked to drink. And though I occasionally have a glass of wine or a beer, it’s not part of my normal day. Giving up alcohol for Lent would be trivial, not a hardship. (ice cream would be hard)

I am getting clearer and clearer in my request for a relationship. And I am honing my listening skills. And ultimately I am attempting to learn about my heart, my communication styles, and my needs. THEN, and only after I have some clarity for myself, am I open to having a new relationship enter my life. The one I am ready for.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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