The name of the blog
"It was never just an affair" needs to be in quotations, because it was something my ex-husband said to me early on in the break-up. I guess he thought it might make me feel better to know it wasn't just a fling per say, it was real love? It didn't make me feel better. Him ending the affair and being willing to work on the marriage would have made me feel better.
Wednesday, 6 November 2013
Friends and Tetherball
My friends saved my life, over and over again. I don't mean to sound overly dramatic, but I believe that to be the truth from my perspective. I could not have gotten through these last five months without my friends. Whether it was the down and dirty work of having horrible information they felt they needed to share, to sitting with me after the news had been broken, offering me a place to stay, coming home with me the day he moved out, driving me to appointments when I was in no shape to drive, sending me messages of support from distant provinces, going for walks with me, distracting me, letting me text my messages of anger or love to my husband to them instead, at any time of the day or night, to dissecting and interpreting his emails to me, or conversations with me, there has been a significant outpouring of support and love from friends close and far, spiritually and physically. Even people I barely know, that have heard the story from a friend, have offered words of wisdom or support. And now, through this blog, I have garnered additional support. And I cannot even imagine how I would have coped in the absence of that support. So, in honour of the many who have positively touched my life during this difficult time, I want to pay my respects for their time, efforts and support.
Once or twice in my past someone has asked my opinion on whether or not they should share the tragic information they have, with the spouse or potential spouse of someone they know that has cheated. I have always said yes, you do not withhold such significant information from someone. And I know it can ruin friendships, but if you truly care for someone, you want them to have the opportunity for truth. And now, having been the recipient of such information from a friend, I stand by that statement 110 percent. I am so grateful that A shared the piece of information she had with R and S. They struggled overnight with what to do with that information, but thankfully, they are honourable souls. They were not trying to hurt anyone, or cause anymore problems, they simply cared enough about me that they wanted me to know the whole story, or have a complete picture, if my husband wasn't going to tell me. It was very brave of those three women, and I know it was difficult. I can't imagine how hard it was for R to actually be the messenger. I am aware there was fallout for all three women at the workplace, given the almost incestuous dynamics of the friendships and workplace that was involved in my situation. In fact, I had a fight with my husband over the disclosure. His mind was so twisted with what he was doing, that he was angry and felt betrayed by A whom he had been very close to in years prior. I challenged his mindset with "if you hadn't cheated there would be nothing for A to have disclosed". And really, if his drunk girlfriend hadn't been so disrespectfully running her mouth at a party full of his coworkers, would anyone have known? To this day I still might not have the truth. The damage was already done though, and my husband weaved his faulty thinking into his version of the story and shared that with at least one other coworker. So cheers and love and gratitude to A for being so brave and realizing that she had done nothing wrong and could hold her head high at work.
And R and S are owed a significant debt of gratitude from me. It was they who came and sat with me that hot afternoon. It was they who drove me to my psychologists that day, and waited patiently throughout the session. They drove me home afterwards, and that one day they probably spent eight hours of their life managing mine. They had left work, left their home, to come to mine at the drop of a hat, or text message, and breathed for me that day. These two women would continue to be one of my greatest sources of support for weeks to come. Daily, sometimes hourly, I would write them or text them updates on the latest hurtful thing said or done. I felt protected by them. Here is one message I got from S: "I wish I could wave a magic wand and this shit would be over and you could move on. But I can't and the best I can do is love you and as you know you always have a room here to come to. Sending hugs your way." And one of the most remarkable aspects of the support I got from R and S is that they were relatively new friends in my world. R and I had met many years prior at school, but had only recently reconnected now that I lived in the same geographical area as her and was interested in going to yoga with her. And S and I had only met the summer prior, and were just getting to the point of being good friends; mostly we had socialized as couples and were just getting comfortable with each other. They were a part of my "new life," whereas the other supports I was accessing were my "old life".
I had significantly withdrawn from my old life in the year preceding the break-up. We had moved over an hours drive away from our community, I was no longer working due to a nervous breakdown of sorts, our adult son was no longer living with us, and due to this combination of significant lifestyle changes, I was passively letting go of my older friendships. I invested little in maintaining my existing friendships in the year leading up to the disclosure, mostly because I had so very little to offer anyone given the depression and anxiety I had and continued to experience. Which made me all the more grateful and wondrous at the way these people rallied around and supported me when I selfishly reached out to them. In that first week there were about five or six people I told, and they got all the same messages. I resorted to sending group texts or messages on Facebook because I couldn't stand to rewrite the same story over and over. The next week, I told three more close friends what was happening. The beauty of the shotgun approach I used was that at almost any given point, at least one of my supports was available. My selfishness continued for a long time. I had nothing to give anyone; all I could do was take, and I did. I leached and sucked every comfort I could from my support network, turning from one friend to another, afraid to burn someone out and lose them. About two or three months in, I started to realize and acknowledge how self-centred I was being in terms of caring for my friends in return, but it was only an intellectual acknowledgement. It really was only about month four post break-up that I started to offer support or caring, or even basic interest in their lives, in return. I am so grateful that for the most part, these friends were true and good friends; they understood or forgave my selfishness. And I am grateful to myself that I did not hide from my friends, no matter how I felt about myself or the situation, which was shamed, afraid of rejection, ugly, stupid, and a lot of negative qualities that don't necessarily bode well for connection with another human being.
Not everyone did, or could, support me though. And this is the ugly side of a messy break-up that needs to have a light shone on it. The book, After the Affair, does speak to the sad reality that not everyone you love, and expect love in return from, will be able to listen to you during this time. Perhaps your friend is struggling within his/her own marriage and you are not aware of this. The discomfort your situation awakens in them is too much to handle, and they have little they can offer you in the way of comfort as they would much rather avoid you and the pain you represent. Or, as was the case with my husbands best friend, who I believed to be my best male friend, he did not want to be put in the middle of two people he "cared about". Or at least that was the way he put it. He said he did not want to know the details, and expressed some of his personal discomfort with the situation when he said we were the first couple he knew that was divorcing. The end of that friendship was swift, over in a few messages. And I don't know that his friendship with my husband has fared much better. Initially, I am aware that he did not answer my husbands phone calls, and when they took a trip together a few months after the break-up, my husband told me later that every time he tried to talk to E about his feelings or the situation, E changed the topic. He simply was not going to listen to what had happened, and that was that. You might read that and say E was never a good friend, or a true friend, he is shallow, and you might be right, but it doesn't change the fact that you feel the loss of someone who has been in your life as a travelling companion or drinking buddy for ten years. I also felt the loss, although far less acutely, of the many coworkers that were my acquaintances, that were probably incredibly uncomfortable with the situation given they had to work with my husband side by side for many hours of the day. My entire social circle was disrupted by the break-up.
And the other troublesome situation I faced was with a friend who I term the quick healer. The friend who espouses trite cliches such as, "This is your time to focus on you". What the hell makes people think I needed time for myself, or that I wanted to focus on my spiritual growth or lose weight? I know she meant well, and she is still my friend, but for whatever reason, about a month after the break up, if she called and I was crying, or just feeling down and tired, she would ask "what's wrong"? I was stumped and horrified that I had to explain myself, over and over again, that I was still upset about the situation, that I was still grieving. I tried to focus on the positives, she was calling regularly and obviously cared for me. She and I went to Vegas about seven weeks after the disclosure on a trip that had been planned months prior. At this point my husband had moved out and communication was sporadic. However, during my time away, he had promised to write me a letter, and we were planning to spend some time together talking when I got home from the trip. A couple of days into the trip I got a short text message from him, simply outlining a significant career decision he had made and put into motion. It felt like someone had punched me in the gut. I tried so hard to keep the tears in check given I was in public, but the odd one snuck out. I didn't know how to respond to my husband, so I said just wrote, "congratulations, I am not sure what else to say." When I joined my girlfriend a few minutes later and told her about the text and what he had done, she asked me why I was upset? She reminded me that we were separated and heading to a divorce. I told her that I didn't want to be separated or divorced, and that him making such a major life decision without consulting with me was painful to take; it was hurtful to acknowledge that my input was no longer required in his life since I wasn't going to be a part of that life years down the road when the plan came into fruition. She did not seem to understand how personally I took my husbands action of singlesness, and for the next couple of months, while I was fragile and hurting, I avoided her a bit, minimizing the way I felt when I talked to her: like I was over-reacting to everything; like I was silly to still be upset over the breakdown of my marriage, the cheating, and the fact that my husband loved somebody else.
What the universe takes, it gives back. I have made two new good friends in the last five months. Women who are wise, kind and supportive, women that I can support too, and feel good about that. Women I simply enjoy spending time with. And the sad reality is, knowing where I was physically and emotionally, and how I was travelling my path, I likely would not have become such good friends with them had it not been for the separation. I wouldn't have seen the need per say. My husband had been my best friend for many years, and I was content with the other friends I was making, and what our social circle was providing for me. I have also been blessed to reconnect with a very old friend, and potentially make a new friend with his wife. And through them, I went on a cruise, and made another new casual friend. But most importantly, during this trying time, I have significantly reinserted myself back into the life of a friend who has been around so long, she isn't even really a friend anymore; she is family. And like so many family relationships, I took her for granted that she would always be there, whether I invested regularly or not. I have much gratitude that she took me back into her life with open arms and words of comfort. The ripples of how the ending of my marriage has effected my friendships, both positively and negatively, have been on full display during the past five months.
And what does any of this have to do with Tether ball? Nothing, but I promised my closest girlfriend that I would weave her sage tether ball visualization into what I wrote next. So bear with me on this train of thought as I create an analogy, good or bad, out of nothing. One of my supports throughout this challenging time has been the volunteer coordinator for the non-profit organization I volunteer with. She is a retired reverend and counsellor who has met with me on several occasions to see how I am faring. And she gave me a lovely compliment at one point: the fact that I have such wonderfully supportive friends meant that I myself had been a good friend in the past. I am so grateful that at some point I have made enough deposits that at this time I can withdraw extensively from my friendship account without going into bankruptcy. Now for tether ball: last night my girlfriend told me she wants me to visualize that I am the pole in a tether ball game. The ball is at the end of the chain, and can represent whatever I want it to be at that moment: friends, money, love, happiness, career, my husband, family, travel etc. It spins quickly around me, seeming to be out of reach, but that chain is attached to the pole. And eventually, when I am ready, the chain will start to wrap itself around me, the pole, and the ball will come within reach, and I will be able to grab it. I now know without question that in terms of that ball, my friends have always been within grasp, whether I realized it or not. I wish all my friends, and you the reader, love and light. Namaste.