What we learn

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As it turns out, I am surrounded these days by young couples getting married. Some years we’re bombarded with graduation announcements, some years big birthday parties, this year, weddings.

I used to cry at weddings. What a happy day, two people joining together, promising their undying love and devotion to each other, forever. Everyone looks so beautiful, the setting is so romantic. How could anything go wrong… yeah, not so much anymore. Realizing no one is perfect, there are agreements made, both written and unwritten, when we couple with another human being. There are requirements for the union to function properly, financial, emotional, and physical decisions. There are also the aspects of compromise and selflessness. Marriage is complicated, and not to be taken lightly. We are, after all, agreeing to be kind, loving, and understanding, of one very special person in our lives. No matter how gorgeous the dress, how dapper the groom, how lovely the flowers, those superficial aspects are decoration. They have absolutely nothing to do with the agreement that is being made on that day.

No matter what words are used in the ceremony, promises are made. Promises that when broken, hurt. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be worth promising in the first place. So what happens along the way that creates an environment for a person to break their vows?

In my mind, it begins with selfishness and ends with selfishness. Marriage is no place for a selfish person. A person chooses to break their vows. They can rationalize all they want, but whatever it is that they keep inside, the thing that eats away at them and propels to any number of hurtful behaviors, happens because they are putting their needs above their partner’s.

“If you think that sexual infidelity is the leading cause of divorce, you’ve got it all wrong. We polled over 100 YourTango experts to see what they say are the top reasons married couples decide to split, and — believe it or not — communication problems came out on top as the number one reason marriages fail.” Sep 16, 2015 (HuffPost.com)

NOT hard to believe, because lack of communication, or some other existing problem is often the underlying reason, infidelity is the symptom. By the time a married person cheats with someone, something is already very, very wrong. Not necessarily wrong with the marriage, and blaming infidelity on the faithful spouse is just mean and wrong. It is never okay to cheat. Never. It’s cruel. Not only is the cheater breaking his or her vows, but they are stripping their loyal spouse of so many basic human rights. The right to be treated fair and kind. The right to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases. The right to protect themselves and potentially their children from danger if the affair partner is emotionally unbalanced. Just to name a few.

In a nutshell, here are the 10 Most Common Reasons People Get Divorced (according to Huffington Post article by YourTango. I’m not linking here as there are some unsavory article titles on the page below the article that I don’t want to link to):

  1. Getting in for the wrong reasons.
  2. Lack of individual identity.
  3. Becoming lost in the roles.
  4. Not having a shared vision of success.
  5. The intimacy disappears.
  6. Unmet expectations.
  7. Finances.
  8. Being out of touch… literally.
  9. Different priorities and interests.
  10. Inability to resolve conflicts.

If a couple divorces, it’s not the end of the world. It’s okay. But cheating and lying are not okay. So why do so many people do it? Selfishness. The whole point of marriage is to join together for a common goal. People do change. We also find out things about our spouse after marriage that are deal breakers. Divorce may be the only viable option, but cheating. Cheating is never a viable option.

I was at a bridal shower this past Sunday. One of the games played was a sort of how well do you know your fiancé kind of thing. The host had asked the groom before hand the answer to 13 questions. At the shower, the bride was then asked to answer those questions about her spouse. Everyone else was too. For every answer she got wrong, she had to put a large marshmallow in her mouth. It was quickly obvious why the marshmallows. Watching her try to navigate answering questions with marshmallows in her mouth was quite funny. She answered 6 of the 13 questions correctly. That’s 7 big marshmallows in her little mouth. Ugh. Anyway, these were somewhat simple questions, like what is your favorite animal, or what is your favorite meal, where was your first kiss, etc… She answered some of the questions correctly, like first kiss, but many she didn’t know, like favorite color? Now, I realize they have years to get to know each other and to be honest, sometimes I change my favorite color on a day to day basis, so yeah. All I kept thinking as she was talking gibberish through a bunch of marshmallows was, we don’t really ever know anyone. They are a sweet couple and they seem perfect for each other, but they will keep things from each other. I just hope they are not big things. They will hurt each other. I just hope they are not big hurts.

After 35 years with Blue Eyes, I’ve learned that honesty and communication are the most important things to me. I’ve always innately known what my needs were. I didn’t need him to make millions of dollars. I didn’t NEED him to father children with me. I didn’t need him to share the same friends with me or even like my friends (likewise his), I didn’t need him to have the same hobbies as me, I didn’t even need him to be on the same financial page with me (for years he paid little to no attention to our finances at all). All I needed was for him to treat me with respect and kindness. I needed him to be honest and communicate his needs so that we are both having our needs met.

Things have changed substantially in our relationship over the past 5 1/2 years. While dreams were shattered, and so many promises broken over the first 30 years, there is now more communication (on his part), more vulnerability (on both our parts) and a truer marriage than we have ever had. He has learned that keeping things inside himself, hurts me. And it also hurts him. His sex addiction was the worst kind of medicine for what ailed him, but it was all he knew. I have learned that I am even more durable than I thought I was. Yay, me? I do find it strange, though, the whole 30-year wedding anniversary thing. It makes us sound like a really great couple, when in fact, we are just like everyone else, battling it one day at a time.

13 thoughts on “What we learn

  1. If I had an inkling of my husband’s dark side I would never have walked down the isle 41 years ago. I’d have run the other way. We went away last weekend for the first time this summer and it was wonderful. We ate one large meal out and those were fabulous. On Saturday we had lunch and I brought up our wedding rings. I knew they were hidden somewhere in our home but I decided I wanted them gone. I asked him to get rid of them because they were like ghosts of his prostitutes still haunting me. He chose to sell a prized toy to get the money to buy our rings so they had a special story attached to them that I no longer want to hear. Anyway, during the course of our conversation he just could not say, “I am sorry this situation still brings you so much pain.” What he did say was, “I don’t know where they are but I will get rid of them. I don’t want anything around that causes you pain.” So the difference is that in my version, he said, “I am sorry” and in his version he just said he would get rid of them. (I believe he already did.) When I asked him about that he looked at me and said, “You know I am sorry about everything. I am sorry all the time about everything I ever did that hurt you.” “I will always be sorry for everything I did and I will never do anything to hurt you again.” Then he said, “I was a degenerate. I was a terrible person and terrible human being but I am not that person anymore. If I thought I was, I would kill myself. I am an honest person now with a life I never thought I could have, thanks to you and your willingness to give me another chance.” I’ve learned I am capable of great compassion and kindness and I am also capable to taking care of myself and walking away if this falls apart. I never ever thought I would be here, 4 years after my life imploded. Thanks again Kat for baring your soul in such a vivid and honest way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Marie, for sharing here. It really is an accomplishment when they can say out loud, “I am sorry for hurting YOU.” It’s miraculous when they can say it at the right time. It’s so nice that you are enjoying life with your husband again. Likewise I had NO idea about how cruel my husband could be. I knew he was a flirt, but an innocent, happy flirt. A guy who was comfortable around women. It was all for show. A big act. I know he didn’t even realize at the time how insincere he would become. It still boggles my mind how easily he could block me out of THAT life, the disgusting, dishonest, secret sex life. I’m very happy things have changed, he has changed, and I do not for one second believe most people will have to deal with what we have in our marriages. But regardless of sex addiction, a lot of marriages fail. Apparently it is a lot of pressure, being selfless and compromising in order to make a marriage/partnership work long term, I just never thought it was. xo

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  2. A glorious post, CK. As happens so often, your experience, your needs (communication, honesty) are mine exactly. I also didn’t need any of the things you listed as unnecessary to you. I still don’t. (And found it weird/frustrating/perplexing when the man I am seeing now felt he couldn’t offer me many of those things. I. Just. Don’t. Care. Not about “material things,” I was never desperate for children, etc. I think he is starting to see me for who I am…) So many people get caught up in things that really do not matter.

    Thanks for saying it so eloquently, as you are so good at doing just that xxx

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  3. Hello Kat (and whoever else is reading this),

    I agree with you that infidelity is absolute selfishness, regardless of how it’s packaged. I have also come to realize over the past year that I only knew half of who my spouse was for the first 22 years of our marriage. In the past year, I have come to know the other half. Had I known the other half 23 years ago, I would not have chosen to walk down an isle, meet him at an alter, recite promises and exchange forever vows. I would have run the opposite direction. He misrepresented himself to me. Our true marriage and partnership began the day he chose recovery, just over 1 year ago. How well you know your spouse, or anyone else for that matter, is a very good question. We only know as much as they choose to reveal.

    Your blog is inspiring, thank you for the invite.

    Cathy

    Liked by 4 people

    • Welcome, Cathy! I hope you find understanding and compassion here. There are other SA spouse bloggers who also have blogs and comment here. A little community, if you will.

      I felt like I knew my husband six years ago. I mean 30 years is a long time to “know” someone. I do think I knew 80% of him. The other 20% of him, left me almost speechless. I can’t say I like the 20% of him I didn’t know, but I’ve learned to accept all of him. I know he believed the other 20% was a deal breaker and that’s why he was a secret. Glad he’s out in the open, but it has been hell! Thanks for joining!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. For me the fact that you are still there, battling, (and my God I know that battle) makes you a real couple, and that is better than great by a mile. Years ago I wrote in my journal how I was sat on a beach surrounded by happy couples and families, whilst my world had been blown apart. I now know that wasn’t true, some of those people were just an illusion. So I would choose real every day. R❤️

    Liked by 4 people

    • I agree, Rosie. I remember my good friend who has struggled mightily in her marriage (without infidelity) saying how her sister had the “perfect” marriage. No such thing. We all struggle. Marriage is hard. I’ve learned that there’s a lot we don’t see, but it’s there. Part and parcel to the fact that marrying two people together for life takes a lot of compromise, kindness, understanding, and honesty. Happy Fall! xo

      Liked by 3 people

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