I did not go to work the next day. For the first time in my life, I called in sick when I wasn’t sick. I had to care for my wife. She had suffered emotional trauma. I knew that if I did not spend the day with her, she might be gone when I got home from work.
We spent the day talking, crying, and trying to save our relationship that I had destroyed. I don’t remember if it was that day or shortly thereafter when I wrote a letter to the last AP — AP3. No, this was not a letter to break off contact with her; I had stopped all contact on first D-day, but she kept writing asking for her things. So, this was a letter to tell AP3 to stop trying to contact me, to clarify that she never meant anything to me and that I was just using her. TL wanted me to write that letter to prove that I really did not feel anything for AP3. It was easy enough because it was true. I never felt anything for AP3. She was just another object to be used. In the end I also became a bit angry with AP3 anyway, because it was not as easy to use her as I had hoped.
If some of the things I say about affair partners or others sound misogynistic, they may be. You may think that more and more as I write more and more about my pre-D-day past. Keep in mind, please, that I’m not proud of that kind of thinking, and I’m working carefully to eliminate it. I think I’ve made a lot of progress in that regard. But, I had a long way to go in the first place. Also, it was really only this week that I began to understand that the term misogynist probably applied to me. I had resisted the term in the past. I don’t think I really understood it. I thought a misogynist was a man who wanted to hate women. I did not want to hate women. But, I think my upbringing and my deep insecurities led me to fear and resent women. I didn’t realize that’s what I had been doing all those years. I was a bit taken aback the other day when TL labeled the pre d-day me as a misogynist. But, I think it’s true that a lot of my past sins came from that fear and resentment.
Again, I don’t recall whether it was that same day or shortly thereafter when I talked to our oldest child about what I had done. I was afraid to do it, but I had to do it. Our child was nine at the time. He was pretty sharp, and he knew something was desperately wrong. I told him I had hurt his mother by behaving childishly. I told him I was very sorry and that I was working hard to try to help TL. Talking to our kids about my sins, even in an age-appropriate way, was devastating. I think it’s one of several experiences I recall when I remind myself why I’m working so hard to help TL recover. My relationship with the kids is now the best it’s ever been. But, I certainly missed a lot of opportunities before D-day.
TL and I took a very helpful Affair Recovery class together. We found a new, local counselor. The class took a few months. It was a good experience for me. I learned a lot of things that continue to inform my philosophy about relationships. One example from Rick, the course leader, was the definition of “love.” He said, basically, it is not about finding the perfect person. He said, rather, it is about choosing to love your mate, in spite of their imperfections. It is about putting your mate first. Most importantly, love is a choice. It is not something that you fall into, or something that happens to you. You choose it, you make it, and you make it the best you can make it.
Before I tell you more about our reconciliation, let’s go back to the beginning and bring you up to date. I was raised in a home with lots of contradictions. My mother struggled against the local religious establishment in the small town where we lived. She constantly told me religion was bad.
At the same time, my mother taught me to follow all the restrictions of the local church. She taught me that the following things were evil, embarrassing, beneath us, and not worthy of discussion. The subject must immediately be changed if anyone, including someone on the television or radio engaged in the following or discussed these things with anything but contempt and moral superiority: foul language, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, sex, and music with the exception of classical music or mellow children’s songs. She taught me that I should not worry about physical endeavors such as athletics. She taught me to be ashamed of having interest in girls. She taught me to be afraid to show the humorous, adventurous, or social facets of my personality. She taught me that I was smart. I interpreted that to mean that academic pursuits and intellectual endeavors should be easy and that I did not have to try hard. She taught me that she would be deeply disappointed in me if I did not succeed at mental endeavors. I feared her disappointment.
I hit puberty a bit later than most boys. I remained physically small, timid, and awkward with girls longer than most boys. When I had a girlfriend who was attractive in the conventional sense, I was not discreet, going overboard with public displays of affection. Looking back on it, I wonder whether that was subconsciously an attempt to show off. At other times, when I had a girlfriend who was not attractive in the conventional sense, I did not show her much affection in public. I may have been as concerned about my image as I was about sex. On the rare occasion when I was with a girl who would offer sex, I missed the opportunity, either through erectile dysfunction or through missing their signals and failing to act. A few years later, I would look back on those missed opportunities and I would alternately beat myself up about them and then feel sorry for myself on account of those missed opportunities.
But, sex was not as important to me as pride or ego. One early girlfriend — I’ll call her GF1 — refused to give up her virginity to me. Yes, I know that viewing her that way was very self-centered and showed no regard for her feelings; such disregard for others is something I’m facing and working to overcome. When it became clear to me that she never would, I broke up with her. I didn’t really want her as a friend. I just wanted to stop being a virgin myself. A year or two later, GF1 found me and told me she had lost her virginity to someone else and that she was now ready to have sex with me. Ego and pride took center stage in my mind, I politely declined. I had a similar experience with a girlfriend I will call GF2. She refused to give me her virginity. We broke up when I went off to college. When I saw her a year and a half later, she was pregnant and unattached. I was polite, but I never saw her again.
Here’s another example of my selfishness. A more attractive girl (OG) asked me to the junior prom. Although I was going steady with GF2, I accepted the invitation from OG. Of course, OG was just using me, so she could go to the prom even though she had moved to another school. But, my selfishness must have been very hurtful to GF2.
On winter break my freshman year, a friend I will call GF3 looked me up. We spent a lot of time together. She also refused to give up her virginity. Back at college, I started seeing a girl we’ll call GF4, who was not a virgin. For several months she refused sex. GF4 and I eventually had sex together and then got into a serious relationship. In one form or another, it lasted about four years. Very early in my relationship with GF4, I started to obsessively compare myself to her previous boyfriend. I badgered GF4 with questions about her previous sexual experiences. I wallowed in self-pity and begged out loud for GF4 to change the past. I was angry that I had not been her first. I believed it was unfair that GF4 took so long to give me sex. I was angry that I felt inferior to GF4. I felt like a simple child and I saw her as a worldly adult.