10:00 pm 2009 Halloween Night- my husband decides to “walk the dog.” Now mind you, my husband never walked the dog, EVER, so I knew that something was fishy. Granted, things had been fishy for a long time, but I couldn’t ignore this or talk myself out of it. This day had been a long day coming.. three years to be exact. Right after he became a captain at the airline he worked for as well as becoming CO of his Marine C-130 squadron, he began to distance himself from me and the children, becoming colder and more contemptuous.
Looking back, I now know that is about the same time he began to, in his words, “become indiscrete” and in my words, “have sex with people that were not his wife.” I have often wondered what the catalyst was for his “indiscretions.” He claimed that he didn’t begin having one night stands or romantic sexual relationships until after he got out of active duty. Was it the promotion to airline captain? Or the promotion to Commanding Officer of his Marine squadron? Or both? Whatever the reason, he changed from the committed family man, to a cold, arrogant, and distant person who had nothing but contempt for me and my world.
Later I would come to realize that in order for someone to justify their infidelity, they had to vilify their spouse, otherwise the subsequent cognitive dissonance is unbearable. (Cognitive dissonance was a favorite phrase he liked to use with us when he was defending his affair partner.) For those who aren’t’ psychology majors, cognitive dissonance can be defined as “the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.” Which in my opinion is really a fancy, psychological term for guilt.
Here’s an example:
You go into a store and steal a candybar which conflicts with your value that stealing is wrong. You are now experiencing “cognative dissonance.” In order to relieve the pain (guilt) of stealing when you believe it to be wrong, you must rewrite the narrative to yourself about why stealing in this situation isn’t really wrong. You might say to yourself, “their prices are way too high and I’ve bought candy bars from this store before, so they have made a lot of profit already on me, so me stealing this candybar doesn’t really hurt them.” Now you can make it easier on yourself to live with the reality of stealing a candy bar and cognitive dissonance diminishes.
So when one person decides to have an affair, they have to rewrite marital history in order to escape their cognative dissonance, and that story usually involves this kind of a script:
I never loved them/they never loved me
We were married too young
We’ve grown apart/they’ve changed
They take me for granted
They are too fat/lazy/ugly/religious/inconsiderate/add in nonsense of choice
In the beginning of 2009, I began to suspect that something was seriously wrong with our marriage. Up until that time, I chalked the distance in our relationship down to work issues he was having and normal marriage ups and downs in a 20+ year marriage. But the weirdness in his personality began to become un-ignorable. The reluctance to come home from work trips, the need to run marathons every month out of state, the odd trips to Mcdonalds to “get a cup of coffee.” I know dear reader you may be asking yourself “how did she not see the signs?”
My only defense is that I never in a million years would have pegged him for a cheater. For one thing, he was meticulously honest about some things, like not sneaking in candy to a movie theatre. He was a model husband and father up until the cheating, making elaborate projects for his son’s school projects, faithfully involved in boy scouts, even leading worship in our church. What I didn’t know was that he was he was a consummate chameleon, able to adapt to any environment with almost supernatural ease. When he was at home he embraced the image of loyal, faithful family man, while in his work environment he adopted the libertine lifestyle practiced by so many in the airline and military culture.
To be Continued…