Friday, May 9, 2014

Changing Normals: Three Years

This post I decided to write more of a personal note, much as we've done in our book, Healing Infidelity.

This Sunday, May 11th, marks our third discovery day anniversary. Three years ago, May 11, 2011, I discovered, to my horror and total shock, that my wife of 29 years had been having a series of affairs over the previous seven months, both emotional and physical, both online and real life.

Life has never been the same.

I know a lot of hurt spouses will read that as mostly negative. And there are some negative changes. Can't escape all those no matter how well rebuilding goes, no matter how well one heals. There will always be a scar. There will always be that memory of utter disbelief at what I was reading, and feeling my stability crumble under my feet as my worst marital fears materialized:

The intimacy I'd lost with another man in the relationship. The deception she'd hid from me for seven months that I never thought she'd be capable of. The innocent trust that could never be regained. The realization that this could be the end of our marriage.

Some changes were positive.

But we both became less selfish. Our lives and marriage became focused on each other instead of our separate interests. We spent more time together. Sacrificed ourselves for each other. Romance reignited and we learned how to keep it going instead of letting it die.

By year three, the "new normal" isn't so new anymore. I look back at the man I was and I've changed so much, mostly for the better. Like the song says, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I'm much more focused today on what really matters than I was then. That old me seems so foreign now. The old me is dead, and in many ways, that is a good thing.

Lenita has totally changed. Her interests pre-affair and post-affair are like night and day. I know what she spent her time doing pre-affair, as well as during the affairs, is much different than what it is post-affairs. Her attitude toward me, our marriage, and her own life is why we are still together.

You see, when I discovered the affairs, their existence said to me that she didn't love me anymore. How could she do that to me and still say she loves me? While she said it, I couldn't believe it. She'd been lying to me and cheating behind my back for seven months, dead set on keeping that truth from me. How could I trust a word that came out of her mouth? I couldn't at that point.

So what changed my mind that she did love me?

Watching her unflinchingly face what she'd done, own up to it, and refuse to shift the blame onto me or anyone else. Struggle for months with her guilt and wrestling with what was wrong in her heart and soul that allowed this to happen. Seeing her go to confession for almost a year every week. Watch her strengthen her spiritual life, so much so, that she put me to shame. Experiencing her consistent attention, affection, truthfulness, honesty, and commitment to me. Making me the most important person in her life after God.

I saw what lengths she was willing to go to in order to save our marriage and keep me.

That convinced me that her love wasn't merely words, but real. Discovering the affairs said she didn't love me. Experiencing the extent that she went to keep me revealed how much she loved me.

If it wasn't for that drive of hers to do all she could to repair the damage she'd caused, I wouldn't be here writing this blog post right now. We'd not have written a book together on how we not only rebuilt after infidelity, but created a vibrant and stronger marriage in its wake. We'd likely have divorced by this point.

We're headed off on a weekend anniversary trip. Both to celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary (May 15th) and having made it three years since discovery day in not only good shape, but with a renewed and vibrant marriage.

I wish everyone approaching their third discovery day anniversary were in the same boat. Part of my mission with the book and blog is to help as many as possible make that boat before it sails.

On our trip, we'll spend time discussing what has changed in this past year and look forward to planning for the coming years. We've changed. Even during this past year. "Normal" is never a static state of existence. The question is never what should our normal have been, but what will it be in a few months, years, and when we're in a nursing home some day?

I don't know what the future holds, but I know right now, despite what happened, there's no one I'd rather grow old with than Lenita.

Happy anniversaries, Sweetie!

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