When what if becomes what now...
I can tell you that, from my experience, the second affair is not as hard as the first. I don't really know why. Maybe it's because the world never righted from the first time. Maybe because I kept a part of my heart protected just in case. But mostly because I think once it happens a first time, there isn't that assurance that it cannot or will not happen again. I don't subscribe to the once a cheater, always a cheater edict. Obviously. Otherwise we wouldn't have reconciled. I just really super hoped it wouldn't happen again.
But it did. I won't bother looking up statistics. I do that stuff for thecandidly. So I have no idea how often this is a pattern of behavior. Knowing that wouldn't really help me. It either does or doesn't happen again to some degree. In this house? It did. I wasn't too surprised. Not because I expected it. No. I did not expect it. I would not have reconciled had I expected to be here again. But it was because I saw the signs. I recognized behaviors. Familiar things that were happening not all that long ago, frankly. That my gut recognized before my brain did. And isn't that always the way? So even though I asked for the friendship to stop, my gut would not shut up about it.
And when those things pop up again, those things that blur the line between then and now so completely that you cannot help but think. When your gut is telling you, nope, something is off here. When there is a lie or a few. When things just aren't adding up. You look for ansers. Me? I snooped. Those two little beings on my shoulders at war as I reached for the phone. It was right there to see. Not hidden by a password. Or cordoned away in a separate app. Right there and I think that was purposeful. Who would suspect anything when the phone is there, unlocked and on display? But I did suspect. And then I didn't. I didn't have to suspect because I knew. It was right there in front of me. Words and emojis that broke what little trust I had rebuilt and any hope still in reserve. I knew then, too, that the marriage was over. Maybe it was over long before that. I am not sure. I reconciled with full love and faith and hope. But maybe we never had a chance.
This is not to say that I was not devastated. I was. Some days, I still am. But here is the fucked up part. I was not embarrassed about the first affair. Nope. It happened. I dealt with it and I refused to take the shame. But this time? Wow. There was white hot shame. To call my friends and family and tell them? I felt such shame and embarrassment. Not because he had another affair, no. That is still on him. Like last time, I won't take that on. The shame was because I asked them to let him back into their lives. I asked them to trust my willingness, hope, faith and love that he and I could fix this. I asked them to trust me. They did and I was wrong.
But I underestimated my friends. They weren't upset that I was "wrong". They were upset that I felt I had to ask them to have faith in me. Like that faith and love and hope were conditional and not freely given. They have always given it. They have never NOT given it. The hang up was mine. That is not to say they didn't have strong feelings. They did. And do. But they knew that I needed to try. Knew that for me to move forward, I had to get rid of any "what ifs". They loved me for that and through that. And they love me still. I know how lucky I am.
So what now? Well, in the middle of a pandemic, it does not make sense to divorce and create two separate potential covid risk environments. So, yep, we are living together. Trying to figure out how to coparent and coexist all while the world around us is a giant dumpster fire. It's not ideal. But it's...not the worst? And I think it is because it is the second affair. In a way, the discovery soothed me. Steeled me. Freed me. So much less anger. Well, now anyway. Those first 24 hours were a doozy. Less resentment. Less shock and bewilderment. In a way, it was a gift. Now I know. There is so much less emotional and mental power expended when you learn it is done and there is no fix. When you have lessons learned and can say to friends and family - we get to decide, if you'll still have me. When you can say out loud what you had known for months - you fell out of love with me a long time ago. The marriage is over. But let's try and be friends. (I said that. I meant it. It's still hard.)
There is power for me in this go 'round. And anger and shame and embarrassment and resentment. But mostly resolution and power and calm. I can do this. Totally. The first time I was still nursing a baby every 3 hours and was barely upright myself trying to adjust to three kids. Now they are older. Challenging in new ways. But it doesn't seem as...hard. Did I want this to end another way? Umm, yah. Hence the reconciliation. But that isn't how the chapter ended. No matter how much I wanted it or how hard I tried.
I was even a little unsure in the beginning. Maybe I was overreacting. Maybe I was hypersensitive. But then I called my sister. Strike that. I texted my sister hoping to skate by with a text for something that should totally be a phone call. Did not work. She called me immediately and told me two powerful things over the course of our chat. One I may share at a later date. For now that is mine to remember when I start to second guess everything. But the other? After listening to me cry and tell her how imperfect I was, how I regressed and how hard I tried, she said - Nessa, you need someone to tell you it is ok to stop trying. You have tried for so long. Nessa, stop trying.
And I did. I stopped trying to hobble a marriage together with ingredients that were no longer there. I stopped trying to make a person love me who didn't anymore. I stopped trying to make a person love the life that I love. I stopped apologizing and asking for permission. I stopped second guessing everything and berating myself for every shortcoming. I stopped trying to become the person I thought he needed me to be. I also I stopped trying to make him the person I wanted him to be. I haven't asked him but I wonder if he is a little relieved, too. So here we are. Pandemic. Economic recession. Social and moral reckoning. Political clusterfuck. Hybrid learning. And learning how to cohabitate and coparent. I cannot recommend strongly enough that you NOT do this. It is not for the faint of heart. But then, lack of heart has never been my problem.