There’s something especially painful about finding out cheating is going on in a relationship. It isn’t like other conflicts and problems between people who share a bed, a home, a family, a life together…it’s excruciatingly personal. I’ve suspected for a while now that I was living with a lie, a liar, that things were not the status quo I was being led to believe…the life I was acting out as well, in truth.
Things have been a disaster in my partnership with Mike for over a year now, but I shut my eyes and mind to just how badly things had gone wrong because I didn’t want to see it, because I was too tired and sick to consider the alternatives to facing facts, because he was content to live the way we were living too. Status quo…what a silly phrase: meaning the existing state of affairs. Yes, let’s maintain the status quo, for heaven’s sakes. Let’s not rock the boat, look at the problems let alone address them! Heaven forfend we change the way things are or even discuss doing anything that might help this disintegrating union. That might be work, and we both work too hard already-he at his job, me at mine here at home, both of us dealing with four children at home.
Better for me to accept that Mike is a misogynist whose values are grounded some where back in the Dark Ages when it comes to how men and women should relate to each other within the bounds of a union. What’s funny about him was that his initial attraction to me was in part because I was an independent woman who took care of herself and her children on her own…I guess he was looking for someone who wouldn’t be needy and demanding after the stress of his last relationship. He got what he wanted for a time-until Laura came along…and then my aneurysm.
Three months away from Laura’s first birthday and my planned return to work, disaster struck our family. When I returned home from the hospital I was changed, not for the better. I was sick, weak, needy; mentally off-balance and completely incapable of caring for myself and the children on my own. People tell me I should be grateful he didn’t leave me-that many would have-and I have to question what kind of world we live in now that these thoughts come into people’s minds…or out of their mouths. What the heck happened to loyalty, caring, the need to tend to your loved one, good grief, a sense of chilvary if nothing else? Of course I was grateful I had him…but not because he didn’t leave me; rather because I wanted his comfort, support, the feelings of safety in the storm of all those emotions I was wrestling with at the time. His feelings of protectiveness even lasted a few months before the exhaustion and worry set in on top of him and he began to treat me as a hindrance sometimes. The lashing out when I forgot something, remarks made about how this or that wasn’t cleaned to his satisfaction, how long I’d napped, how long I was taking to get better. After all, they’d released me from the neurosurgeon’s care, that must mean I was healed up, right? To be fair, neither of us knew anything about how long it took to recover from a brain surgery or the answer to why I was having so many emotional problems during the first six months. I think he was so afraid of what he saw in my deterioration he was lashing out. It didn’t help to know that when I was feeling it though. Neither did his going out to his friend John’s every Friday and sometimes Saturday night. I wasn’t able to get out, didn’t feel up to it…and this was his escape. He said he needed it to cope with the stress of work, coming home to me and the kids and the uproar and all he had to do to help with things around the house now. I believed him, and felt guilty for everything I was putting him through.
Then I found the brain aneurysm support group online and got answers….affirmation, comfort. I found out I wasn’t the only one by far who was reacting adversely to medication, the only one forgetting thing, experiencing painful eyesight and mind-crushing headaches. It was normal…just as normal as having psychological problems after brain surgery and a rupture. I was finally validated and knew how to get help for my problems. I tried to share all this with Mike, but he didn’t like the idea of me talking to ‘strangers’ on the internet. I should just go to my doctors, get better so we could move on, and go back to being the woman he met in April 2002. Yeah, right.
Our status quo now is sad and painful for both of us. He wants the woman he picked out, and she is gone…long gone and never coming back. We have a baby now, and that slowed some things down even before we were hit with the event. No more just bopping out the door to have a night on the town, not without a large bit of finagling to find a sitter and deal with all that extra confusion and expense. No more hitting a bar to dance and flirt with each other and shoot pool and darts til we call a cab home to make love in the living room floor at 3 am. I can’t be in bars now…the lights, the racket start a migraine up in no time flat. Movies are out….my wires were screwed and unless we know there won’t be flashies and zooms I can’t sit in a theatre. I’m a really fun date nowadays. So I stay home and Mike consoles himself with nights out at his friends…or wherever he goes when he leaves here every weekend.
Tension runs through the house all the time now. Tension over money because he’s now supporting a woman and four kids he never thought he’d be taking care of on his income solely. Stress because my girls are teenagers now and becoming more themselves, more ready to question rules and authority than in the early days of his internship as "Daddy". He doesn’t think they should ever associate with boys, use the computer to talk to their friends in case a molester might get to them, use the phone after 8 pm because the ringing annoys him and he simply wants to come home at night, get dinner, take a shower and relax. There is rebellion amongst the ranks and if I dare to insert my opinion and it differs with his, then I am siding with the chldren.
And then there’s just me. My assertive, confident personality. My expectation to be accepted as me even as the flawed and damaged me I’ve become. It is harder for me to concentrate on my improvements, find the joys in what I’ve learned on this journey back to wellness I am walking every day. When the anti-depressive medicines were making me so tired and lethargic, all I heard was complaints of how often I took a nap in the afternoon, all the things I could have gotten done here at home, how much I’ve changed and how much he dislikes it. I got off the medication and got better, and I still don’t feel any change in his judgements of me.
I finally had a revelation this past week as I listened to his charges, my list of sins in his eyes, the things I wasn’t doing to make him happy and content; I was never going to be enough for him again. It doesn’t matter how much I improve, how much money Disability gives me to make up for the loss of income I’ve suffered because of this life-altering event-because I’m not who I was…at all. I never will be again, no matter how much better I get. I was given a GIFT on September 18, 2004. The gift of a second chance at living…an opportunity to see life for all it could be if I woke up and embraced it. It wasn’t a gift Mike wanted or saw or reacted to. If I’ve learned nothing else in the last two years, it’s how important it is to love completely and unabashedly the people in your life….to tear down walls and barriers, to accept them for who they are and all they can be…damage and all.
So right now I feel cheated. It’s been suggested to me often that perhaps I’m also being cheated *on* because of his frequent and regular absences, his suspicions of me on things as simple as who has called, who I talk to on the internet….Cheaters are very suspicious and accusatory of their spouses, I’m told. Truth be told-I don’t really care one way or the other. Being cheated of getting his acceptance and love for who I am is so much more important to me than to whom he is giving his body.
Of course, there are two sides to every story, and I know I have been difficult, nigh on impossible to live with at times. But after describing the way Mike and I carried on our relationships and differences on a blog once, Thotman remarked that we had passion between us, at least, and that passion was to be treasured…even if it wasn’t the kind everyone practiced. Even that passion has diminished now. I can’t bring myself to care much how all this turns out, even after I rock the boat and confront him with the problems with this status quo. I am who and what I am…scars and all…crazy and all. I’m a loveable nut, a giving train wreck, a funny depressed person, a smart brain-damaged woman. I won’t be cheated any more.