We had church in our home last Sunday, it was a small intimate gathering with people of deep faith. After everyone left, Dave and I put the furniture back in place and had a couple of hours before meeting friends for lunch. I told Dave I was going upstairs to lay down to read for a while.
He said “Non can we please talk”.
How often do we hear these words come from our husbands mouth? In our house, not a lot…
Turning to him I asked, “Now?”
His solemn face and nod answered my question.
Dave’s been doing a lot of work on himself and also with other men over the past two years in recovery. We’ve both put in enormous effort to rebuild our relationship and we’re in a great place. We have uncovered a heck of a lot about the nature of his duality and in more recent days revisited some questions I’d asked over the years.
The reason we did this is not because of any lingering insecurity or unrest but because of the very real possibility that amongst some of his female companionships, he may have held secret friendships that he was blind to or in denial of. Just friends, perhaps some that he initially overlooked and maybe considered insignificant compared to the bigger betrayals.
Not surprisingly, the deeper he’s dug over time, his answers have changed.
“Did you take your wedding ring off?” In 1994, his answer was a very strong “No”.
The same question 2 weeks ago became a “Maybe” and “I can’t be sure”.
Last week it was, “Yes I probably did”. (With one of the affair partners)
Like many career men, Dave has spent countless hours away from home, traveling for work, he’s had literally thousands of opportunities to be unfaithful.
So, in the last couple of weeks I challenged him to think about all interactions he’d had with women on his many trips. I asked him to view every relationship with the clarity he now has, to take his time and come back to me when he’s ready.
We prayed together that the Lord would reveal any hidden skeletons.
Dave is involved in regular Saturday calls with a group of men who are supporting each other through recovery and it was during last weeks meeting, he noticed a groundswell of fear beginning to surge within. And as God does, the Holy Spirit exposed another dark secret, one pushed down and buried so deeply in the bowels of shame that even Dave had forgotten it existed.
He was drained and nauseous after the group call, for the remainder of Saturday, and well into the night he seemed really down. The pain on his face was reminiscent of the pain in his heart. I encouraged him not to take on the other men’s burdens, never imagining for a moment that the weight he carried, was his own.
Before going to sleep that night, he said “I hate that person I was…” Gently placing my hand on his chest I comforted him, knowing that the person he was has developed into the fully integrated man he is now. A deeply loved man.
So when he asked if we could talk on Sunday, of course I said “Yes”.
My initial apprehension about more disclosure had to make way for the person Dave has become.
This news was coming from a mature man, a broken man, a man full of remorse, and a man committed to heal from a lifetime of pain. A genuine man who has delved into the depths of his soul, the toughest of places on this journey.
We sat together on the outdoor furniture freshly returned to it’s place, and as he spoke through his tears, I waited quietly for the bomb to drop. The pounding in my chest was at odds with my calm exterior. Shallow breathing, sweaty palms, Amygdala at the ready, what was the outcome going to be, fight, flight or freeze? My primitive brain in deep preparation to find safety.
I froze and listened while Dave painfully recounted the details of yet another affair, a one night stand he had during the first few years of our marriage, at a conference away from home. His own disgust and shame had filed this memory somewhere even too dark for himself to recall when he first came clean in 2019. He then continued divulging some of the many moments and meals he’d shared one on one with different women on different work trips.
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners, not because he had any legitimate work reasons to but because he wanted to and could manipulate the situations to suit. Not because he wanted to pursue romantic relationships with any of the women but because it made HIM feel good to be seen in the company of an attractive woman. The attention he sought from many women, the image he desired of an admired man, the affirmation and propping up of the fragile child within. It soothed the empty part of him, it made him feel good about himself and he only ever considered, himself.
So, when is a D-day not a D-day?
In this particular case; when the new information didn’t thrust me into an emotional free fall sending us all the way back to the oblivion of ground zero.
Even though the fresh disclosure was difficult to hear, I could sit and accept it with a new level of empathy and compassion. This wasn’t a case of selective trickle truth, rather it was a legitimate suppressed memory. The physiological response to the information was unavoidable, it’s real and I had absolutely no control over it, I did have control with how I responded. Later that evening, Dave asked me whether I was OK. I answered “Yes.”
A little while on I told him that my OK was comparative to the fact that I wasn’t pulling my hair out, banging my head or a wall with the palm of my hand, I’m not rocking back and forth and I’m not curled up naked on the bathroom floor. So yeah, I’m OK.
I felt a little numb and flat, that was my OK and that’s OK.
We have already ascertained that Dave is a man who has battled with addiction. Patterns in place long before we ever met. There is nothing that myself or the kids did to cause this neither could we have done anything to prevent it.
His choices were just that, his choices.
This sexual betrayal happened more than twenty-five years ago, I’m not going to let that derail all of the healing we’ve enjoyed. I’m not up for that kind of punishment, neither of us deserve it.
No, we’ve done far too much work for that.