Bomb Drop Pt 2
"I love you but I'm not in love with you."
In the months before bomb drop, when he was going to “therapy” and sitting on the sofa staring off into space, I would gently, tentatively, ask him, “hey what’s going on?” to which he would bark, “Leave me alone! I don’t have to tell anyone what is going on! I deserve to have peace, and be left alone in my own home!” As a consummate people pleaser, I would duck my head, retreat in fear, and meekly slink away to wonder exactly what was going on.
He had been going to therapy months now for his anxiety, off the record, because he couldn’t take the chance of his employer finding out, to figure out how to cope with (what I discovered later) was the overwhelming guilt and shame of his three-year double life. He had been actively engaged in multiple affairs during these three years, and was now hopelessly enmeshed with the latest affair partner.
Finally he had to make a choice. It’s was either his affair partner or his family and he was struggling with the decision. He was completely disconnected from all three of his kids, even so much so that our middle son reported his dad was on the phone continually texting during their “night time student driving hours.” Into the third year of his double life, I began to see the signs of the crazy, obsessive behavior of a cheater. I started to panic, unfamiliar with the contempt and disrespect he continually displayed towards me. I started to contemplate the possibility of unfaithfulness, not willing to accept the prospect of the man I loved dearly being capable of betraying me so horrifically.
During that last year I cried continually, rising in the middle of the night to go and lay in my closet and weep silently. Or taking a shower and letting the water disguise my tears. I developed styes in my eyes from the crying, lost weight, and fearfully refused to see the signs in front of me. While we were on a family outing to a local fall festival, I returned from the restroom to catch him talking to someone on his phone. As soon as he saw me approach, he whispered quickly into the phone, “I’ve got to go”. The person, (affair partner) on the other end, wouldn’t let him dismiss her so easily and he struggled to end the conversation with her.
As I watched this exchange unfold before my eyes, in that moment, I knew, he was cheating. I felt my stomach clench as a spear of anxiety pierced me from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt. When I asked him who he was taking to, he claimed it was a military buddy and the lie was as hollow and false as the carved pumpkins decorating the fair. Still I allowed myself to accept the lie as truth and talked myself out of it on the way home.
Following that day, he began to be more and more distant, traveling with work and running marathons every weekend. I began to confront him about his absence from the family, knowing that I could no longer live with his abandonment. So on Halloween night when I came home from picking up my son from his work at Chik Fil A, to discover my husband Walking The Dog at 10 pm, I lost it.
The anxiety, the fear, the denial, could no longer prevent me from the confrontation that had been too long in coming. I told my son to watch my 10 year old daughter and went to find my husband. Of course he was not "walking the dog", but half a block down, around the corner, on the phone. As he saw me approach, he made no move to hide his conversation. He apprehensively ended it and waited for the inevitable. When I asked him who he was talking to, he replied, “a friend.” “Is it a man or a woman?” I asked. “A woman,” was his defiant response.
In that moment, I knew I couldn’t delay the inescapable any longer. “Take the dog home; we are going to get in the car and talk,” I snapped. As we returned home and got in the car, I readied myself for the showdown ahead. I could no longer let him evade the truth of his behavior; I needed to know everything. I drove us the short way to our daughters elementary school and parked in the parking lot. I turned to him and demanded he tell me everything.
Without preamble he told me he had three to five “one night stands” in the past, and he was presently at that time involved with his “soulmate.” It’s hard to explain what it feels like when someone tells you that their affair partner is their “soulmate.” The feeling is a combination of shock, contempt, and laughter all at the same time. You have the feeling of watching your life as you might watch a movie; what person uses the phrase “soul mate” except in a sappy, stupid, B movie script? How does a 45 year old man refer to a 45 year old flight attendant as his “soulmate?” And yet there he was sitting in the passenger seat of our family minivan telling me the most cliche thing that comes out of the mouths of men in the throes of a mid life crisis.
But if using “soul mate” to describe your affair partner isn’t the most cliche thing ever, here is the next: "I love you, but I’m not in love with you." With this simple statement my husband calmly justified his sweeping betrayal.
This is classic bomb drop my friends. This is what every man in the grip of a midlife affair says to his wife of 20+ years, “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” Translated this means: “I’ve been unhappy with things in my life so I’ve started sleeping with other women to medicate my unhappiness. The endorphins that I get from having sex with other women and not from you, prove that I’m not in love with you any more. Therefore it’s best for me to leave you and be with my soul mate who can make me happy”.
When confronted with such obvious delusion there is not much a wife can do but buckle up for the roller coaster ride ahead. Most marriages do not survive the addictions of midlife affairs, but some do. The recovery depends on the forgiveness of the wife and the humility and repentance of the husband. Mine did not survive, much to my sorrow, but my lessons learned may give you insight into your own journey.
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