My last post was decidedly unfunny. I’d apologize for that, but it’s not every day that the man you married confesses to dabbling with Ashley Madison. I think I’ve earned a temporary hall pass on that.
This post won’t be all that hilarious, either. I need to take some time to purge the thoughts in my head. It’s like I binged on a full jar of chocolate peanut butter and a large pizza; it’s bloating me and congealing on my insides, and I’m desperate to get it out as quickly as I can before it consumes me.
I’m finding myself trapped in the incongruous dichotomy of having a racing mind, yet not being able to actually feel anything.
I’m keenly aware of a number of thoughts (How did I miss this? and My spouse cheated) bouncing uncontrollably around my head like a giant tub of Super Balls broke and scattered all over a gymnasium – hundreds of thousands of pinging bullets that roll and bounce and refuse to be stilled.
Yet, at the same time…I should be upset. It would be natural to be angry. Logical to be yelling. You might expect me to cry.
But other than one or two stray tears, I’ve been numb. I’ve been walking around like I’ve been mentally anesthetized. I feel detached; I’m absently letting the situation play in the background like some third-rate sitcom while I nonchalantly go about my business, seemingly unaffected.
This can’t be real, can it? This is just a very long, drawn-out dream; soon I’ll be rudely interrupted by the morning show blaring through my clock radio and be jolted into a perfectly normal day.
You’ve certainly heard the old adage, “Pinch me, I must be dreaming.” Unfortunately, I’ve tried that, and it just isn’t effective. I used to pinch myself when I was dreaming – but my brain outsmarted me by allowing me to feel pain while I sleep. I’d actually feel the pinch, but wouldn’t wake up. So I devised a new trick to help me discern dreams from reality: telekinesis. If I can move things with my mind, I’ll know INSTANTLY that the situation isn’t real, and I can happily coast along knowing it’s just a dream and I’ll wake up soon and it’ll all go away. When I’m having a bad dream, I focus on something lightweight – a tissue, a piece of paper (because even though it’s a dream, we don’t want to get all crazy here by trying to throw cars.) If I can get it to move – if I can get that piece of paper to twitch, even just a little bit – it gives me the courage to stand up to whatever demon is chasing me, because I’ll know I’m only dreaming.
Suffice it to say on Thursday night, and at least hourly since then, I’ve desperately tried to get papers to flicker. I’ve begged tissues to please, please, just flutter a teensy bit so I know this will be over soon.
But all the paper products have conspired against me and refuse to budge.
What the hell do I do now?
I work in HR. My career is built on how I react when people surprise me. But this has struck me as unexpectedly as a truck barreling through a stop sign, hitting me so hard that I’m having a discarnate experience, watching my body violently bounce off the hood while thinking, “Dayum…that’s gotta hurt!” as I painlessly float above the carnage.
He tells me that, although he was on the site, he didn’t actually meet anyone.
In the unlikely event that it isn’t blatantly obvious, this article provides an excellent summary of everything that’s wrong with this. But, in the spirit of trying to get it to soak in so I can accept it and address it, I’ll list it out.
He set up an account, with a new email I’d not been aware of. Deception with intent to harm.
He paid for the account. To the tune of $250 or so. And when I think of all the forgotten birthdays and neglected anniversaries, this is the closest I can get to tears. He’s never spent that much on me. His wife. Yet he found it a worthy investment to make in the collapse of my trust. (Him: “I promise there was no further money spent. I didn’t mortgage the house.” Me: “No. Just our marriage.”)
He contacted two women and communicated to four. But he insists that he never met any of them. And it was two years ago. In the past.
Where I struggle with this: My gut is convinced he’s telling the truth. But based on how many clues I missed – based on how completely oblivious I was to his discomfort when the data breach broke – I can’t trust my gut. I would be foolish to do so.
And frankly, what would YOU tell your best friend in this situation? If she said, “He was on the site, but he swears he never actually met anyone”?
<cue the rousing chorus of “Yeah…riiiiiiiiiiiiiight.”>
I am a smart woman. Aren’t I?
How can I possibly believe him when I can’t believe myself?
He tells me that he’s tried a number of times to tell me. (Well, once the news broke and it was conceivable that he’d get caught. Eyeroll.) To his credit, he knew it’d be better if he told me, as opposed to waiting until I found out. And there were a number of reasons why it wasn’t a good time – the kids were home all day during the summer, which segued into my super-busy season at work – and he knows about my food issues and my anxiety and wanted to wait until a time where I’d be better equipped to handle it.
As misguided as it was, he was sort of trying to do the right thing. (Which would have been a much nicer sentiment when he was whipping out his credit card to buy deception and lies. Obvs.)
But there’s no good time for bad news. HR folks talk about this quite a bit, in the context of “what’s the best day of the week to fire someone?” Is it Friday, so they have the weekend to cool down? Is it Monday, so they have a full week to job hunt and file for unemployment? There is no clear answer. (Although, if you can avoid canning someone on their birthday, they usually appreciate that. My sincere apologies to Pat. Know that I learned from it, and I always check birthdays before a layoff now.)
He tells me that he’s incredibly sorry, and that he’ll do anything – ANYTHING – that I need him to do in order to make this work. He’s already offered me full access to all of his PCs and his phone; he’s volunteered to carry a GPS 24/7.
He’s begging me to stay. To give him another chance. He pleaded with me to go to counseling with him, to please, please let him try to fix this.
He’ll do anything. Anything.
He’s doing his best to give me space, backing off quickly when I don’t want him near enough to touch.
Over the last two days, he’s broken down completely. I’ve never seen him close to anything like this. We’re talking big, ugly, snot-dribbling sobbing here.
While I sit there, numbly, listening.
It’s so surreal.
He is absolutely terrified that I’m going to leave him.
And I don’t know that I won’t.
My heart desperately wants to forgive him. My head, however, knows that I need to do my due diligence here – while it may be a long time before I can trust him, he can certainly work his a$$ off proving to me that he means what he says in the meantime.
I’ve told him that I don’t know where this will go. That I may seem fine some days, and then suddenly be angry, and I have every right to react in whatever way my emotions choose to express themselves.
He said he’s just thankful I haven’t left yet. That I’m talking to him. He said he’ll take any and every moment now, because he realized in full force what it would mean to lose me.
All the right words.
Will the right actions follow? As we say in HR: “Immediate, significant, and sustained improvement is required for continued employment.”
I attempted to escape from this today by taking my bike out. I thought a long ride would do me some good – if I logged a solid 20 miles, perhaps I’d burn off some of this numbness and be able to sleep.
It was a beautiful ride. Good for the soul.
Unfortunately, I got lost, and ended up clocking 27 miles before I got home. But, as with my marriage, I can take all the time I need. There’s no deadline here; I can take it moment by moment, stopping to snap some pictures or to rest a bit, and head home – or wherever I want to be – when I’m ready.