The Stranger: Part One

A tidal wave of huge proportions today. Back in therapy after a 3 month hiatus, new ground to cover. Sometimes the depth seems never ending. I find I’m at a good place, only to sink deeper than desired. Yet I feel closer. This is how growth and insight are gained, is it not? I keep wondering what that place of resolution feels like. I have further to go until I know for certain.

I am a complete stranger to my kids. More horrific than that, at one point some time ago, they saw me as a loving mother, wife to their dad. This stranger, me, they are fearful of. I must begin to understand their fear. It won’t take long. There are particular benchmarks that clearly define new insights. Today was one of those.

They have heard things about me, stories, I don’t know. They have images of me, bi-polar, pathological, very sick and distorted views. Perhaps they see me as person who is sexually addicted. They know of my affairs. They know of them, only because I was threatened. And I have accepted my part in all of the bad decisions I made. In order to reach my girls, I must accept the brutal reality that they no longer see me as their mother. I have not accepted that I am a stranger to my kids. Until today.

As I work through therapy this time, the yearning to understand myself heightens as does my resolute. I am not solely responsible for the demise of my marriage. This is not why my girls are angry with me. They understand all marriages have their challenges. I believe they accept that. They are (rightly so) angry that I chose to have affairs. In their minds, their mother, one whom they loved, looked up to, trusted and believed in, ripped apart their lives, irreperably damaged their being. They know very little about the intimate relationship between their parents (nor should they). The see their father as the victim, mom, sick and demented.

Where to go from here?

Therapy continues. I will work on pressing through the shame which I am healing from. There is a great void, a disconnect I feel about my past. Cognitively, I understand my behavior. Emotionally, I am detached. Is this because I can no longer look at the kind of person I was? Have I not endured enough of my own pain in order to feel what the kids feel? How much longer does the estrangement continue without my having a voice, the opportunity to share myself? I now fully recognize where all of their anger stems from – that I betrayed my husband and my family, without a care about the consequences. In essence, there is some truth to this. Making the decision to seek solace and acceptance from another outside of my marriage, I did not think about consequences, period. How could I have been so detached from the two people I love so in this world?

I know my past behavior is just that – past. No longer that same person, each and every decision I make, consequences are considered above anything else. Try as I might, this includes my decisions to reach my children. Now I stand back, further than before. With the help and support from my own therapist as well as my kids’ therapist, I remain steadfast, working through all the pain necessary towards reunification.

Belief is in the Behavior

“What I believe is not what I say I believe; what I believe is what I do.
― Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality

Sometimes a quote jumps out, throws you to the ground and rattles your senses. The above quote by Donald Miller did just that today.

God (not Him) I think I’m really getting it. What I DO, how I LIVE life, this is what is changing in me. It is not what I say. My words, the words written here – the extension of HOW I have chosen to live my life.

For so long, a myriad of years, the focus on what to say, the explanation of my beliefs, thoughts and feelings came first. Behavior nary considered as it never occurred the two were joined together: there is little growth within until one begins to LIVE their beliefs. The hypocrisy of Christianity, always I’ve questioned. I have a greater understanding of why this bothers me so. How one says they believe in a God yet lives their life without a thought of WHY they believe, thus shown by the paradox of their actions.

I think I now understand this in terms of my affairs. It is difficult if not impossible to live a life of beliefs if one isn’t sure what one believes in. I never questioned my choice of having affairs because I didn’t THINK – I REACTED to the circumstances of my life. Belief starts with thought as is must. THOUGHT precedes everything else for how is one to know what to believe if one doesn’t think? There is freedom in thought. I am just discovering the beauty of this. The manifestation of my beliefs are shown in my behavior. There is so much more room for thought, new questions, more insight. The energy picks up, allowing me new opportunities to LIVE my life as I believe.

New Realities, New Growth

I am not certain which hurts more: no contact with my kids or my ex-husband’s disinterest in helping me. My own new realities are coming to light about the man I was married to. He, I’m sure, must feel the same. His trust, the entire core of who he is, destroyed by my actions. I continue surrendering this, though have come to a place where I can only take responsibility for my contribution to my marriage, the positive, the negative. There is a new kind of pain I feel, one which is separate from the estrangement with my children. It is more deep than I realized.

What has come to my attention most of all is his lack of compassion. Or perhaps, the kind of compassion I need. Then again, I find myself still justifying his character, diminishing my own feelings. Kids, do not try this at home. I’m still learning…

Having compassion does not require one to forget hurt, pain that is caused. It is putting oneself in the other’s shoes. I have done this many times. Still not enough. The more compassion I feel for him, especially my girls, I am better able to forgive myself. I had hoped he could do the same. He loved me as best as he could. He is hurt and angry. I am hurt by his lack of care or concern, his dismissal of me. And this is my truth. He has argued this point before and I’ve allowed myself to feel as if it is my problem, all in my head, though it is not. It is my heart that is filled with sorrow, as I did not realize this until recently.

Why am I continually stunned by this? It is not to say he was unloving our entire relationship. Nor was he always distant. All of what happens in a long-term marriage is gradual, an extension of previous behaviors and patterns. I see now that the last three or four years of my marriage were the beginning of what would then become our downfall.

This is not about us, this is about our them, our children.

Time moves forward. My love for my kids grows ever so deeply despite the distance between us. I strive to work together, a new-found partnership with the father of my kids. They are our children. We have raised them as the beautiful people they have become. If I felt I could not approach him for help when married, how am I to approach him now?  We are not able to work together for the benefit of them, working to heal a fragmented family left with deep emotional wounds. I can not force his help. He must want to work with me. If not, nothing I can do. I am, however, viewing my life from new perspectives, willing to continually look at myself, eyes, heart and mind wide open. Below is an excerpt of something I came upon that speaks directly to what I feel….an incredibly profound lesson. Grateful to find this:

“Some marriages do not recover from affairs.  There are scores of couples who realize that the reasons that led to the affair, or the affair itself is too much for the marriage to tolerate.  Divorce happens.  It is a harsh reality.  This by no means serves as an excuse to neglect the emotional well-being of the child(ren) involved.  Regardless if a marriage ends or not, the adult relationship should still be strengthened when children are involved.   Parenting is a partnership.  Even when parents divorce, they are not divorcing the children.   They both still have a commitment to their children that should be fulfilled regardless of the marital status.

The third and probably most important thing that parents can do after an affair is work together for the benefit of the child(ren).   Whether or not parents stay married they still have a relationship; a parenting relationship.  In these cases when divorce is imminent, the cheated on spouse may have difficulty getting beyond their own hurt and sometimes the spouse who cheated does not make this any easier.  If there was ever a time to becomes less self-absorbed it is when children are hurting.  That is not the time to focus on one’s ego.  This is possibly the hardest lesson that any couple healing from an affair has to face.  Their pain plays second to the pain of their children.”  Kirsten Person-Ramey