September 9, 2009 was the night my husband confessed to his affair. After he announced the truth to me (sans details), he wanted to tell his parents. I drove him to their house. How I managed to stay sane and operate a motor vehicle is beyond me. I was in shock; shaking. I could only hear the sound of my own breathing as we sat in silence for the ten-minute drive. We walked into the house and sat down on the couch. I breathed violently through my nostrils. My father-in-law had to be roused from his sleep. Upon hearing the news, both in-laws let out small sighs. My husband’s mother was the first to speak up. She asked him what he was “planning to do about it.”
“Well, I am going to give Leslie the house,” my husband stated, almost too calmly.
I sprang to my feet.
“WHAT?! YOU ARE GOING TO LEAVE ME FOR HER?” I screamed. For some reason I thought he was just confessing everything – coming clean, and that he wanted to start anew. He might even actually apologize.
I took the glass of water I had been attempting to sip and threw it against the fireplace. It shattered into tiny pieces, sprinkling shards of glass all over the painted hardwood floor. My husband’s parents remained motionless in their respective seats.
I took my fists, curled them into tight, little balls of fury and started pounding on him. Everything I could muster up in strength I unleashed onto his head, his shoulders, and his back. I punched the shit out of him for a few seconds and then stormed through the open screen door. I paced the front porch, my shallow breathing even more audible. My heart – it was there! – pumped furiously inside of my chest. I wanted to go back in and kill the fucking bastard but I think I knew I had to calm down.
“I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I can’t do this,” I muttered to myself, as I paced the porch, grabbing my short hair at the roots. I went back inside and announced, “I’m leaving. I can’t do this.”
So I left. No one stopped me.
I drove back to our house, which we had owned for seven years. We had recently lost two of our three dogs, so the house felt even more empty than usual. I don’t exactly know what I was thinking. Why on earth would I go back there? I suppose since I had been away from it for the past seven months it was all I knew to do.
I couldn’t face our bedroom, so I went into the guest room and lay down on my childhood bed. I prayed, cried, writhed, sobbed, screamed and cussed like a sailor.
A short time later I heard a knock on the back door. It was my mother-in-law. She told me that she was going to stay in the house until my husband came back home. After I had gone, she had given him an ultimatum. If he left me, he would be dead to the family. Disowned. He thought about it, and then told her that he “needed to return the hotel key”. Apparently he had rented a room in Beverly Hills for the evening — probably all part of his escape. Or something.
Later I realized how weird it was for my mother-in-law to want such an active part in repairing (or ending?) my marriage.
Somehow, between chokes and quiet sobs, I fell asleep. I woke up to soft, controlled voices in the living room. He had obeyed his mother and returned home. I heard my mother-in-law’s tone, full of anger. I heard my husband deliver short sentences. I didn’t know what they were saying, only because I was shocked that I had actually fallen asleep.
I heard the back door slam, and she was gone.
The door to the guest room creaked open. My husband’s tall frame stood in the doorway. He did not turn on the light and I did not get out of bed.
“Who is going to love me now?” I asked him. My life was over. I had to start all over again at 32 years old.
“Someone will,” was his response. He stood still.
“I can’t believe you had sex with her!” I shrieked, as horrible visions of their bodies entangled in lustful passion entered my mind. A wave of nausea pulsated through my body and the back of my mouth got watery. Many more F bombs exploded from my lips as I tried to verbally process the reality that was only just beginning to sink in. I marveled at how quickly a bond between two people could be obliterated, no matter how many years they had been together, or what they had shared.
“It…only happened once.” His voice stayed quiet but slightly high-pitched.
“WHEN?” My voice was loud and cold as ice.
“In…June.” I had actually been home twice that month: once for a gig, and another to sing at a dear friend’s wedding.
“LIAR.” I turned and faced the wall.
But I wanted to believe it. I wanted so very badly to believe that my husband had “accidentally” slipped his penis into his 24-year old student’s vagina just once. What is more, I wanted to believe that it didn’t mean anything to him.
I was conveniently forgetting the fact that he had confessed he loved her; that he had thought about leaving the country to go be with her. My god, the girl barely spoke English. Obviously she was out for a Green Card. This was such a joke. Wasn’t he smarter than this?
My cries of anguish continued until my husband finally slumped down on the floor next to my twin bed. He started sobbing. I was relieved that he showed any emotion whatsoever. It gave me hope. I softened.
He did speak some words of remorse. Then he crawled into bed with me. I held him. We cried together.
“I forgive you,” I said, stroking his face. “I forgive you because I want to, and because that’s what I’m called to do. “
I really, truly, deeply meant it.
Forgiveness is not something that comes easily, or instantaneously. I am not going to pretend that I conducted myself in a “godly” manner, or that I said and did all the right things. I was a crazy, maniacal, jealous wife who still loved her husband. I couldn’t see that he was gone. He had left the marriage a long time ago. I wanted to hold onto what good things we had…I wanted to hold on to the memories and the laughter and the history and the connection and the – dare I say it – holiness of our marriage. Yet, what becomes of “holiness” when someone else has entered the marriage bed? Worse yet, I was still blaming myself for the entire thing because I had gone off to pursue my dreams. Repairing a marriage after an affair is no easy task, even when both partners are willing to do whatever it takes.
Regardless, I knew in all my Christian upbringing, theology classes in college and years of church attendance and Bible study that we are to forgive as the Lord forgave us (Colossians 3:13). Somehow, God gave me the strength to express my desire to forgive my adulterous husband that evening. I truly believe we could have had a shot at making it through the storm had he wanted the marriage. What I didn’t know is that my husband had not hit rock bottom. Furthermore, he was incapable of accepting my forgiveness because he had not forgiven himself.
In his book, Forgive and Forget, Lewis Smedes says, “If you forget, you will not forgive at all…you need to forgive precisely because you have not forgotten what someone did; your memory keeps the pain alive long after the actual hurt has stopped. Remembering is your storage of pain. It is why you need to be healed in the first place.”
All I wanted that night, in that tiny bedroom in that tiny bed, was to start over. I wanted to forgive my husband and start the path towards healing; towards forgetting any of it ever happened. I wanted to forget it all, through blind, yet genuine and earnest forgiveness. I wanted to skip over the pain. I wanted my husband to hold me, to repent of his dirty deeds, to love me. I wanted him to want to run away with me.
I desperately clung to my husband and prayed for him to love me again. He did not leave me that night. I started to hope. After all, I had done the right thing.