“So often we want to take this behavior and now reduce the entire person to just that.”
– Esther Perel
Nine months, seventeen days.
That is how long it has been since I heard C’s voice. It’s been several months since I’ve had any contact with C even by email.
I have one voicemail message left. I haven’t listened to it since New Year’s Eve but I know it is there. I just cannot bring myself to listen to it..or delete it.
Perhaps it is easier to believe everything I said and did was a lie. Perhaps it is what she believes. Perhaps it is what she needs to believe.
In defense of C’s behavior, my friend and a betrayed spouse said to me today, “Sean, you know if she could do something different she would.”
SIDEBAR: As I type that, I shake my head realizing, although true, no one accepts that as a defense of my behavior…the hurt and anger creeps back into my heart and I want to harden my heart. Instead, I weep over my keyboard. I don’t want to deny her meaning to me. That is to deny my own existence.
Nonetheless, I feel forgotten. My existence denied.
Yet I carry her every mile across 40,000 miles, sixteen states, nine months, hundreds of hotels, and twice as many restaurants.
I cannot forget her. I cannot deny her existence. I cannot deny my truth. Still, I feel.
Yesterday I had a conversation with a Twitter friend about how much we feel the loss of our former Partners. I don’t feel I can talk about it much because there is a vocal group of men and women whose perspective is summed up as simply: move on, get over it, and stop talking about how you feel. As if they are offering some magical insight that never occurred to me.
As such, I feel like I’m not allowed to talk about the loss and pain because it was self-inflicted and wounded C. Plus, you know, I’m a man and therefore my grieving doesn’t matter unless I decide to break things.
I should just walk it off. Seven years of my life planning the next thirty years with C and I’m criticized for talking about it and showing my heart. Few people actually care but still have an opinion.
When I said to the doctor I don’t post stories or images of my life with C she asked, “Why?”
I don’t have a good answer.
Partially because I was trying to make C comfortable, partially because the one or two times I have posted images of C and our life together well-meaning people tell me I should have a ritual and destroy them all in a fire. I don’t want to forget the past or delete it. I want to celebrate it because it did mean everything to me. Everything (and that is a different kind of problem).
Doctor Deb responded after a thoughtful pause, “Doesn’t that piss you off? Why do let others define how you act and feel?”
After some thought and reflection about my conversation with the doctor and my Twitter friend, I’m reminded again, if I want to heal I have to celebrate ALL my past and not ignore it.
I’ve spent much time and energy focused on my Ugly and working through my pain and loss. As such, I’ve stopped examining what was beautiful and good. It has created a myopic and unbalanced perspective on Our lives together.
It was the most wonderful seven years of my life.
Our life together was never a lie. We both carried our own lies into the relationship but our life and Love was never a lie to me. And it was never built on lies. There has been a great deal to celebrate and the pictures, both the personal and public ones, were always taken from a place of love and passion.
For the next few weeks as I focus on celebrating what was also true and beautiful I’m going to post some images of C and I together.
It’s my life too.
She can work to forget me but if I want to mature, heal, and learn to celebrate my life I cannot pretend the seven years with C didn’t exist. I’m not going to hide. I loved every moment with C and Our family. If I have to embrace the Ugly to heal I also have to embrace what was beautiful.
No one is all one thing.
5 thoughts on “136: Forgotten”
She is lovely, truly lovely RC ❤️the photos are evidence that what you shared was real and really happened. She may not believe it but I’m a betrayed spouse and I know our time was real because of how he is with me after disclosure. C hasn’t experienced the “after the affair” moments with you so she just wants to erase all of the pain. I imagine that’s a very shame filled and lonely place for you.
Keep processing this pain by feeling, writing, thinking and seeking understanding of yourself, and eventually you will transform xo
Thank you SSA.
I have said before, and I will say again, C’s decision to end the the relationship was a loving and courageous Act for herself, for me and for us.
But, it doesn’t hurt any less to know that I sabotage the relationship and life I’ve spent my whole life looking for…and in the process I probably hurt her tremendously.
l live with the pain of what I did to myself, but what I did to her and K, or at least what I think I did to them, fills me with the most shame. Early on, I don’t want to live anymore (which isn’t the same as suicidal) not because of what I did to myself, but because of what I did to her.
I would do just about anything, to sit down with her, look her in the eyes, tell her I love her, amd I would never leave her or abandon her. to look her in the eyes, and tell her that even after all this time I still want a life with her, and only her, to live the life we planed. To look her in the eyes, and tell her that I can do the hard things with her and that I will not run away or hide. But I will always stand with her…
But I can’t tell her what she doesn’t want to hear…
I can relate… from the other side of the aisle, so to speak. One of my biggest hurdles has been how to reconcile the wonderful, amazing memories and experiences with my husband over the last several years knowing that infidelity was going on in the background of those same events. I’ve written about that struggle. I’m sure that you can no more delete those pictures of you and C than I can delete the photos of me and my husband and our family that were taken during the midst of his affairs. I think I could never do it because I would just be losing so much – our kids were so young then and the photos document their aging (and mine!). I could not get through the bad times now without the joyful moments to sustain me.
I’ve also had to recognize that my feelings expressed in those photos, whether I’m in them or I took them as the family photographer, are authentic. My husband insists that he was legitimately happy in those moments as well. There were no fake smiles. It doesn’t look as though C was fake smiling for you either. Your photos are your authentic experience. It’s your history. It can’t be wiped from existence. C may wonder, as I did, whether the moments are authentic given the gigantic secret left unsaid. I could, and have, driven myself nuts pondering that. The only conclusion that I’ve come to is that if I was honestly happy in a given moment, then I will preserve it as a happy memory.
I’m sure you’ll hear from others who say that of course you could be joyful because your secret was safe. Or that if C knew your secrets she wouldn’t be smiling. I don’t necessarily dispute either of those things, but it seems we can either choose to see the glass as half full or half empty and that’s the half empty point of view. I’d prefer to see the glass as half full and keep my memories. I celebrate you for doing the same.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I was reminded of this quote reading your comment from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: ‘Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison. Well, then it isn’t one to you, since nothing is really good or bad in itself—it’s all what a person thinks about it.”
And therefore by extension, C’s decision to stay or leave is not good or bad except how I think about it…
Which of course reminds me of the quote, “We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
And this is where I am I guess. Have a choice. I know my motives and intentions no one else does and very few people have actually asked. Most people just assume. No one knows what was in my heart. Most people just assume about that too.
Only I know, and through vulnerability and action I can reveal that truth to others but they won’t see it because they are biased to their own view of the world.
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