This past weekend we traveled to the coast to attend my sister’s wedding. I blogged about her. She’s the one whose first husband came home one day and told her he was cheating on her, that he was in fact leaving her, for a man.
That was a few years ago. Her ex has been married to his husband pretty much since gay marriage became legal in the state of Washington. Elizabeth went through the same betrayal grief and wreckage the rest of us did, she took up running, obsessively, and stopped eating, and lost upwards of 60 pounds in about 6 months (by my estimate). She lost a lot of her beautiful blonde hair. Her gorgeous blue eyes turned sad, her demeanor seemed anxious and cynical, and there was that little twist, that her husband had been lying to himself and to her for their entire relationship. She tried to be really understanding of him all the while torn up inside by the lies and betrayal and loneliness for what she was losing in the face of her husband’s “enlightenment.” She even lived with her soon-to-be-ex husband and his lover for a while so their son didn’t have to “go back and forth.” I’m sure it was torture. Cheating is cheating, regardless. The pain is the same. Pretty sure he knew he was gay when he asked her to marry him. Pretty sure he had been cheating for a while. Pretty sure he thought he could live as a heterosexual man. Obviously he was wrong and he hurt my sister tremendously. I feel her pain since Blue Eyes also lied to himself and lied to me about who he was, deep down inside. The thing is, although it does throw a huge curve ball in, being a sex addict does not exclude a man from making the changes within himself to be the partner he really wants to be. Being gay changes the game. Being gay, however, is something people have learned to understand… we have found, being a sex addict in today’s society, not so much. Our entire (very large) family knows the nitty gritty little details of my sister’s story. My story, on the other hand, is pretty much a secret. That’s okay, it is actually easier on me this way.
So, my sister’s hair has partially grown back, a healthy amount of weight has come back on, she no longer does anything obsessively, she’s no longer trying to run away from her life, but most importantly, that big beautiful smile that reaches from the corners of her mouth all the way up to the corners of her gorgeous blue/green eyes, is back. I am very happy for her, and her newfound happiness.
Exactly one year ago today, I returned from a betrayed spouse seminar in Scottsdale, Arizona. That seminar helped me further learn to live in my new reality. It helped remind me that I, alone, have the power to choose happiness. No one else needs to do anything, or not do anything in order for me to embrace my own well-being. I have choices. I have come a long way since a year ago, but I am changed forever. No matter what happens to me from here forward, I will always have my best friend’s betrayal as a part of my story. This is something I have learned to accept. My sister had been married for roughly ten years. Her split with her first husband was sudden, and permanent. It is still very much a part of her story, but not a part of her current life. I honestly don’t think she ever found the happiness within her, she found another man to help her with that happiness. That wasn’t going to work in my situation. My wedding pictures from 26 years ago represent the union of two people still living together, still married, still life partners, and yet, the story is drastically changed. As I watched my sister take those first steps as a newly married, still young woman, I envied her a little bit. I envied the chance to start over fresh. This new man that she embraced and promised the rest of her life to, has not hurt her. I hope he never does. It’s pretty widely accepted that staying and going are both difficult choices in a marriage. My sister didn’t have the choice to stay. She had to leave and start over. She did, and her loneliness is abated. Her story is fresh and new. Her love is pure again.
Can we stay and still experience that pure love? That feeling of honest contentment? I am not unhappy, per se, at this point in my marriage, with my life partner, but I no longer feel completely whole either. I know Blue Eyes is working hard most days to make the changes. There are never any guarantees and there is no such thing as a perfect union. Marriage is hard work, every single day, and once my expectations and dreams were blown, it was confusing, disheartening, and debilitating. Once the fantasyland of what I thought my marriage was was uncovered for the reality it is, I was left with confusion and bewilderment about what to do. But does starting over change the game, not just the players? I know some betrayed spouses say they have started over with the same spouse, they have thrown out the old rings, they have said new vows, they have started over with a “new” version of the same man. Does that work? I know Blue Eyes doesn’t consider himself a new man. He is still working at understanding the old guy as that is crucial to him feeling whole. For him to be able to love himself and make good honest solid choices that don’t hurt people, he needs to face the reality of who he really is. I’m good with that, because I love him. I cherish the good memories we share. I love that we have two beautiful children together. I am still astonished he was able to pull off a double life. But what about me? I have the same task, of figuring out my own weaknesses and deciding what I can and cannot live with. The truth is, I want to be happy, and my choices need to be honest, and they need to lead to that place. Can I learn to stop sacrificing my own needs for the needs of others? Am I actually doing that right now or am I stuck in “I understand my husband is broken and I am willing to stay while he works that out” mode and I am not looking clearly enough at my own wants and desires. Sometimes I am really impatient and I need to learn to stop expecting so much, not everyone is like me. Is that an excuse for continuing to live in a place I am not completely comfortable with? I just don’t know.
I’m kind of feeling lost today…